Carol Dweck – Fixed or Growth Mindset

“Praise for high ability is a common response to a job well done.Whether its on the sports field or in the classroom, nothing seems more natural than to commemorate individuals achievements by applauding their abilities in some way.” ‘Praise for inteligence can undermine children’s performance and motivation’, Claudia M. Mueller and Carol S. Dweck.

Carol Dweck’s research is well known and her findings have been used the world over with teachers when talking about how we praise our students. How do our actions impact on how our students see themselves? Do we encourage a fixed or growth mindset?

In a very simplified form Dweck’s research suggests that praising for intelligence and ability encourages a fixed mindset while praising for effort encourages a growth mindset. So knowing this how do we praise the students in our classes? If someone observed our classes over time what conclusion would they draw about how we offer praise?

2 thoughts on “Carol Dweck – Fixed or Growth Mindset

  1. An excellent reminder about the importance of “thoughtful praise which reflects children’s efforts and process”.

    Dr Jenn Berman (Superbaby – 12 ways to give your child a head start in the first 3 years) references Dweck’s work and gives 10 rules for effective praise.

    1. Be very specific – generalised praise (good job, great work, smart thinking) or praise that is devoid of specific detail is useless.
    2. Make it about the process or the effort (not the outcome, accomplishment, character or personality).
    3. Be genuine and believable – don’t praise for the sake of praise. Kids need to know that they can trust you and that you are giving them an honest appraisal of their actions.
    4. Thank instead of praise – recognise your child has done something that has been truly difficult, given their level of development “Thank you for being patient while I made lunch. I know you were really hungry and it must have been hard to wait so long.”
    5. Encourage instead of praise – praise is conditional, but encouragement is unconditional.
    6. Try a “you” statement – this verbalises what you have observed. “You handed me the book, just like I asked!”
    7. Try an “I” statement – lets the child know how their behaviour makes you fell.
    8. Let them know how their actions affect others.”When your sister was crying and you brought her a teddy bear, that really helped her feel better.”
    9. Try a nonverbal acknowledgement – sometimes just a smile or a nod can let your child know that you saw what she did.
    10. Overheard praise – overhearing praise form an adult can be particularly powerful.

    These 10 rules are aimed at parents but can be adapted for use in the classroom.

    • Thanks Joelene. It is good to have reminders every now and then about our interactions with students and to consider the way we communicate and the impact this has. It is not a big shift in language to change the focus of our praise to the effort rather than the outcome, but it is difficult. If we have always focused on outcome based praise it is hard to break that habit.

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