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The Perils and The wrong kind of praise creates self-defeating behavior The right kind motivates students to learn.Carol S. Dweck to learn, and (2) students inherent students slide into failure during the intelligence is the major cause of their vulnerable period of adolescence. re often hear these achievement in school. Our research has days that weve shown that the first belief is false and Fixed or Malleable? that the second can be harmful-even Praise is intricately connected to how tion of young people for the most competent students. students view their intelligence. Some V V who cant get produced a genera-through the day without an award. They As a psychologist, I have studied student motivation for more than 35 students believe that their intellectual ability is a fixed trait. They have aexpect success because theyre special, years. My graduate students and I have certain amount of intelligence, and thatsnot because theyve worked hard. looked at thousands of children, asking that. Students with this fixed mind-set Is this true? Have we inadvertently why some enjoy learning, even when its become excessively concerned with howdone something to hold back our hard, and why they are resilient in the smart they are, seeking tasks that willstudents? face of obstacles. We have learned a prove their intelligence and avoiding I think educators commonly hold two great deal. Research shows us how to ones that might not (Dweck, 1999, 2006).beliefs that do just that. Many believe praise students in ways that yield moti- The desire to learn takes a backseat.that (1) praising students intelligence vation and resilience. In addition, Other students believe that theirbuilds their confidence and motivation specific interventions can reverse a intellectual ability is something they can34 EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP/OCTOBER 2007
develop through effort and education. aspects of intelligence can be enhanced The Two Faces of EffortThey dont necessarily believe that through learning (Sternberg, 2005); The fixed and growth mind-sets createanyone can become an Einstein or a and that dedication and persistence in two different psychological worlds. InMozart, but they do understand that the face of obstacles are key ingredients the fixed mind-set, students care firsteven Einstein and Mozart had to put in in outstanding achievement (Ericsson, and foremost about how theyll beyears of effort to become who they were. Charness, Feltovich, & Hoffman, judged: smart or not smart. Repeatedly,When students believe that they can 2006). students with this mind-set rejectdevelop their intelligence, they focus on Alfred Binet (1909/1973), the opportunities to learn if they mightdoing just that. Not worrying about inventor of the IQ test, had a strong make mistakes (Hong, Chiu, Dweck,how smart they will appear, they take growth mind-set. He believed that Lin, & Wan, 1999; Mueller & Dweck,on challenges and stick to them education could transform the basic 1998). When they do make mistakes or(Dweck, 1999, 2006). capacity to learn. Far from intending to reveal deficiencies, rather than correct More and more research in measure fixed intelligence, he meant his them, they try to hide them (Nussbaumpsychology and neuroscience supports test to be a tool for identifying students & Dweck, 2007).the growth mind-set. We are discov- who were not profiting from the public They are also afraid of effort becauseering that the brain has more plasticity school curriculum so that other courses effort makes them feel dumb. Theyover time than we ever imagined of study could be devised to foster their believe that if you have the ability, you(Doidge, 2007); that fundamental intellectual growth. shouldnt need effort (Blackwell, Trzes-Promises of Praise
niewski, & Dweck, 2007), that The Effects of Praiseability should bring success all Many educators have hoped toby itself. This is one of the maximize students confidenceworst beliefs that students can in their abilities, their enjoymenthold. It can cause many bright of learning, and their ability tostudents to stop working in thrive in school by praising theirschool when the curriculum intelligence. Weve studied thebecomes challenging. effects of this kind of praise in Finally, students in the fixed children as young as 4 years oldmind-set dont recover well and as old as adolescence, infrom setbacks. When they hit a students in inner-city and ruralsetback in school, they decrease settings, and in students oftheir efforts and consider different ethnicities-and wevecheating (Blackwell et al., consistently found the same2007). The idea of fixed intelli- thing (Cimpian, Arce, Markman,gence does not offer them & Dweck, 2007; Kamins &viable ways to improve. Dweck, 1999; Mueller & Lets get inside the head of a Dweck, 1998): Praisingstudent with a fixed mind-set students intelligence gives themas he sits in his classroom, a short burst of pride, followedconfronted with algebra for the by a long string of negativefirst time. Up until then, he consequences.has breezed through math. In many of our studies (seeEven when he barely paid Mueller & Dweck, 1998), 5thattention in class and skimped grade students worked on aon his homework, he always task, and after the first set ofgot As. But this is different. Its problems, the teacher praisedhard. The student feels anxious and who has a growth mind-set-having her some of them for their intelligence ("Youthinks, "What if Im not as good at math first encounter with algebra. She finds it must be smart at these problems") andas I thought? What if other kids under- new, hard, and confusing, unlike others for their effort ("You must havestand it and I dont?" At some level, he anything else she has ever learned. But worked hard at these problems"). Werealizes that he has two choices: try shes determined to understand it. She then assessed the students mind-sets. Inhard, or turn off. His interest in math listens to everything the teacher says, one study, we asked students to agree orbegins to wane, and his attention asks the teacher questions after class, disagree with mind-set statements, suchwanders. He tells himself, "Who cares and takes her textbook home and reads as, "Your intelligence is something basicabout this stuff? Its for nerds. I could do the chapter over twice. As she begins to about you that you cant really change."it if I wanted to, but its so boring. You get it, she feels exhilarated. A new world Students praised for intelligence agreeddont see CEOs and sports stars solving of math opens up for her. with statements like these more thanfor x and y." It is not surprising, then, that when students praised for effort did. In By contrast, in the growth mind-set, we have followed students over chal- another study, we asked students tostudents care about learning. When they lenging school transitions or courses, we define intelligence. Students praised formake a mistake or exhibit a deficiency, find that those with growth mind-sets intelligence made significantly morethey correct it (Blackwell et al., 2007; outperform their classmates with fixed references to innate, fixed capacity,Nussbaum & Dweck, 2007). For them, mind-sets-even when they entered whereas the students praised for efforteffort is a positive thing: It ignites their with equal skills and knowledge. A made more references to skills, knowl-intelligence and causes it to grow. In the growth mind-set fosters the growth of edge, and areas they could changeface of failure, these students escalate ability over time (Blackwell et al., 2007; through effort and learning. Thus, wetheir efforts and look for new learning Mangels, Butterfield, Lamb, Good, & found that praise for intelligence tendedstrategies. Dweck, 2006; see also Grant & Dweck, to put students in a fixed mind-set Lets look at another student-one 2003). (intelligence is fixed, and you have it),36 EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP/OCTOBER 2007
whereas praise for effort tended to put and the like) fosters hardy motivation. It thing more challenging that you canthem in a growth mind-set (youre tells students what theyve done to be learn from." We dont want to makedeveloping these skills because youre successful and what they need to do to something done quickly and easily theworking hard). be successful again in the future. basis for our admiration. We then offered students a chance to Process praise sounds like this: What about a student who workswork on either a challenging task that w You really studied for your English hard and doesnt do well? I would say, "Ithey could learn from or an easy one test, and your improvement shows it. liked the effort you put in. Lets workthat ensured error-free performance. You read the material over several times, together some more and figure out whatMost of those praised for intelligence outlined it, and tested yourself on it. you dont understand." Process praisewanted the easy task, whereas most of That really worked! keeps students focused, not on some-those praised for effort wanted the chal- * I like the way you tried all kinds of thing called ability that they may or maylenging task and the opportunity to strategies on that math problem until not have and that magically createslearn. you finally got it. success or failure, but on processes they Next, the students worked on some can all engage in to learn.challenging problems. As a group,students who had been praised for their Motivated to Learnintelligence lost their confidence in their Finding that a growth mind-set createsability and their enjoyment of the task motivation and resilience-and leads toas soon as they began to struggle with higher achievement-we sought tothe problem. If success meant they were develop an intervention that wouldsmart, then struggling meant they were teach this mind-set to students. Wenot. The whole point of intelligence decided to aim our intervention atpraise is to boost confidence and moti- students who were making the transi-vation, but both were gone in a flash. tion to 7th grade because this is a timeOnly the effort-praised kids remained, of great vulnerability. School often getson the whole, confident and eager. more difficult in 7th grade, grading When the problems were made some- becomes more stringent, and the envi-what easier again, students praised for ronment becomes more impersonal.intelligence did poorly, having lost their Many students take stock of themselvesconfidence and motivation. As a group, and their intellectual abilities at thisthey did worse than they had done time and decide whether they want toinitially on these same types of prob- be involved with school. Not surpris-lems. The students praised for effort ingly, it is often a time of disengagementshowed excellent performance and and plunging achievement.continued to improve. We performed our intervention in a Finally, when asked to report their New York City junior high school inscores (anonymously), almost 40 mIt was a long, hard assignment, but which many students were strugglingpercent of the intelligence-praised you stuck to it and got it done. You with the transition and were showingstudents lied. Apparently, their egos stayed at your desk, kept up your plummeting grades. If students learnedwere so wrapped up in their perform- concentration, and kept working. Thats a growth mind-set, we reasoned, theyance that they couldnt admit mistakes. great! might be able to meet this challengeOnly about 10 percent of the effort- * I like that you took on that chal- with increased, rather than decreased,praised students saw fit to falsify their lenging project for your science class. It effort. We therefore developed an eight-results. will take a lot of work--doing the session workshop in which both the Praising students for their intelli- research, designing the machine, buying control group and the growth-mind-setgence, then, hands them not motivation the parts, and building it. Youre going group learned study skills, timeand resilience but a fixed mind-set with to learn a lot of great things. management techniques, and memoryall its vulnerability. In contrast, effort or What about a student who gets an A strategies (Blackwell et al., 2007)."process" praise (praise for engagement, without trying? I would say, "All right, However, in the growth-mind-setperseverance, strategies, improvement, that was too easy for you. Lets do some- intervention, students also learned ASSOCIATION FOR SUPERVISION AND CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT 37
about their brains and what they could getting Cs and lower previously). connections." One student referred todo to make their intelligence grow. Other researchers have obtained the value of effort: "If you do not give They learned that the brain is like a similar findings with a growth-mind-set up and you keep studying, you can findmuscle-the more they exercise it, the intervention. Working with junior high your way through."stronger it becomes. They learned that school students, Good, Aronson, and Adolescents often see school as aevery time they try hard and learn Inzlicht (2003) found an increase in place where they perform for teacherssomething new, their brain forms new math and English achievement test who then judge them. The growthconnections that, over time, make them scores; working with college students, mind-set changes that perspective andsmarter. They learned that intellectual Aronson, Fried, and Good (2002) found makes school a place where studentsdevelopment is not the natural an increase in students valuing of vigorously engage in learning for theirunfolding of intelligence, but rather the academics, their enjoyment of school- own benefit.formation of new connections brought work, and their grade point averages.about through effort and learning. To facilitate delivery of the growth- Going Forward Students were riveted by this infor- mind-set workshop to students, we Our research shows that educatorsmation. The idea that their intellectual developed an interactive computer- cannot hand students confidence on agrowth was largely in their hands fasci- silver platter by praising their intelli-nated them. In fact, even the most gence. Instead, we can help them gaindisruptive students suddenly sat still the tools they need to maintain theirand took notice, with the most unruly When students confidence in learning by keeping themboy of the lot looking up at us and focused on the process of achievement.saying, "You mean I dont have to be believe that they Maybe we have produced a genera-dumb?" tion of students who are more Indeed, the growth-mind-set message can develop their dependent, fragile, and entitled thanappeared to unleash students motiva- previous generations. If so, its time fortion. Although both groups had experi- intelligence, they us to adopt a growth mind-set and learnenced a steep decline in their math from our mistakes. Its time to delivergrades during their first months of focus on doing interventions that will truly boostjunior high, those receiving the growth- students motivation, resilience, andmind-set intervention showed a signifi- just that. learning. Mcant rebound. Their math gradesimproved. Those in the control group, Referencesdespite their excellent study skills inter- based version of the intervention called Aronson, J., Fried, C., & Good, C. (2002).vention, continued their decline. Brainology. Students work through six Reducing the effects of stereotype threat Whats more, the teachers-who were modules, learning about the brain, on African American college students by shaping theories of intelligence. Journal ofunaware that the intervention work- visiting virtual brain labs, doing virtual Experimental Social Psychology, 38,shops differed-singled out three times brain experiments, seeing how the brain 113-125.as many students in the growth-mind- changes with learning, and learning Binet, A. (1909/1973). Les idees modernes surset intervention as showing marked how they can make their brains work les enfants [Modem ideas on children].changes in motivation. These students Paris: Flamarion. (Original work better and grow smarter.had a heightened desire to work hard published 1909) We tested our initial version in 20 Blackwell, L., Trzesniewski, K., & Dweck,and learn. One striking example was the New York City schools, with encour- C. S. (2007). Implicit theories of intelli-boy who thought he was dumb. Before aging results. Almost all students gence predict achievement across anthis experience, he had never put in any (anonymously polled) reported changes adolescent transition: A longitudinalextra effort and often didnt turn his in their study habits and motivation to study and an intervention. Child Develop-homework in on time. As a result of the ment, 78, 246-263. learn resulting directly from their Cimpian, A., Arce, H., Markman, E. M., &training, he worked for hours one learning of the growth mind-set. One Dweck, C. S. (2007). Subtle linguisticevening to finish an assignment early so student noted that as a result of the cues impact childrens motivation. Psycho-that his teacher could review it and give animation she had seen about the brain, logical Science, 18, 314-316.him a chance to revise it. He earned a she could actually "picture the neurons Doidge, N. (2007). The brain that changesB+ on the assignment (he had been itse. Stories of personal triumph from the growing bigger as they make more frontiersof brain science. New York: Viking.38 EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP/OCTOBER 2007
Dweck, C. S. (1999). Self-theories: Their role in motivation, personality and development. Philadelphia: Taylor and Francis /Psychology Press.Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.Ericsson, K. A., Chamess, N., Feltovich, P J., & Hoffman, R. R. (Eds.). (2006). The Cambridgehandbook of expertise and expert performance. New York: Cambridge University Press.Good, C., Aronson, J., & Inzlicht, M. (2003). Improving adolescents standard- ized test performance: An intervention to reduce the effects of stereotype threat. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 24, 645-662.Grant, H., & Dweck, C. S. (2003). Clari- fying achievement goals and their impact. Journal of Personalityand Social Psychology, 85, 541-553.Hong, Y.Y, Chiu, C., Dweck, C. S., Lin, D., & Wan, W (1999). Implicit theories, attributions, and coping: A meaning system approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 588-599.Kamins, M., & Dweck, C. S. (1999). Person vs. process praise and criticism: Implica- tions for contingent self-worth and coping. Developmental Psychology, 35, 835-847.Mangels, J. A., Butterfield, B., Lamb, J., Good, C. D., & Dweck, C. S. (2006). Why do beliefs about intelligence influ- ence learning success? A social-cognitive- neuroscience model. Social, Cognitive, and Affective Neuroscience, 1, 75-86.Mueller, C. M., & Dweck, C. S. (1998). Intelligence praise can undermine motiva- Give your students the foundational skills tion and performance. Journal of Person- ality and Sodal Psychology, 75, 33-52. they need to become lifelong readers!Nussbaum, A. D., & Dweck, C. S. (2007). Read Well, the comprehensive K-1 reading curriculum: Defensiveness vs. remediation: Self- theories and modes of self-esteem mainte- "• Addresses the key elements of Reading First nance. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. "* Teaches literacy to masterySternberg, R. (2005). Intelligence, compe- "* Meets individual student needs tence, and expertise. In A. Elliot & C. S. Dweck (Eds.), The handbook of competence "* Accelerates fluency across skill levels and motivation (pp. 15-30). New York: Guilford Press. Visit www.readwell.net/fcrr to read the new Florida CenterCarol S. Dweck is the Lewis and VirginiaEaton Professor of Psychology at Stan- M SoprisWest for Reading Research reviewford University and the author of EDUCATIONAL SERVICES of Read Well.Mindset: The New Psychology of A Cambium Learning Company www.sopriswest.com (800) 547-6747Success (Random House, 2006). ASSOCIATION FOR SUPERVISION AND CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT
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