have a common goal of increasing motivation in the class room. Many will agree that there are several ways of achieving higher motivation through a variety of activities and tools. This research article briefly sheds light on the way that student praise affects the self-esteem and motivation of students in the classroom. By drawing on research by Dweck, I wish to point out (from one perspective) how educators should pay attention to the way in which we give out praise, in order to increase motivation we desire in our students.
Dweck's observations of over 30 years of research with children
lead her to wonder about the praising of student's ability when they perform well on challenging tasks. She decided to conduct a six-study research with Claudia Mueller, with more than 400 fifth-grade students from different parts of the U.S., from varied ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds. The goal was to examine the effects of praising children
for being intelligent. Each study involved students individually working on several tasks, including a challenging puzzle to start with. After completing the puzzle (easy enough for all of them to do well), the students were split into three forms of praise. While they were all told they did well, one third of them were subsequently praised for intelligence (“...Wow you're so smart...”), the other for effort (“...You must have worked really hard...”), and the third for performance (with no comment on why they were successful). Then they observed the effects of these different types of praise across all six studies.
In essence, the studies provided profound results. All of the students responded equally to the first part, enjoying the task and showing confidence about their future performance. In several studies following up, the students were given the choice between difficult tasks (in which they would learn a lot but might not succeed) and easier tasks (in which they were sure to succeed and look smart). The majority of students who were praised for their intelligence the first time chose the task that would make them look smart. The children
who were praised for their effort consistently(as much as 90% at times) went for the challenging task. This suggests that praising for intelligence encourages the student to avoid making mistakes in the effort to keep looking smart. By contrast, praising children
for effort or hard work that leads to achievement, makes students desire a further engagement with the challenge.
Next, the students were presented with more difficult problems in which they did not do so well. They were then asked questions
similar to the first exercise such as: how much had they enjoyed it, how smart did they feel, and whether or not they would be interested in taking some tasks home with them to practice. Those praised for intelligence did not like the task and had no interest in pursuing further practices. Moreover, the encountered difficulties lead them to question their intelligence. Essentially, the students who were told that they were smart when they achieved success, now felt dumb for being presented with setbacks. Dweck emphasizes that “they had learned to measure themselves about what people said about their performance, and they were dependent on continuing praise in order to maintain their confidence (Dweck, 1999, p. ).” Meanwhile, the effort-praised children
enjoyed the difficult task equally, despite the few problems that they got wrong. Furthermore, the students did not perceive their intelligence to be a determining factor of their performance (relative to the difficulty of the task). They even took the problems home with them to practice, while many of the students claimed to enjoy the harder problems even more. In essence, they felt that a greater effort was simply needed in order to succeed.
Finally, the children
were presented with a set of problems having the same level of challenge as the first one (in which all students where successful). The results showed that the intelligence-praised students did even worse than before, while the effort praised children
performed better. Dweck observed that poor results lead to a feeling of stigmatization for the students who were originally praised for their intelligence. These same students even lied about their results (40% of them raising their grade), when asked to report their performance to an anonymous peer whom they have never met. She also observed that the effort-praised students did not feel stigmatized (and did not lie about their scores), since poor performance was only due to temporary setbacks, merely reflecting the amount of effort put into the work (Dweck, 1999, p. ). Moreover, the students' notions of their intelligence reflected their performance. The students praised for their intelligence saw this quality as something innate – something you either have or don't. The students who were praised for their effort viewed intelligence “more in terms of their skills, knowledge, and motivation-things over which they had some control and might be able to enhance.
Dweck's research provides profound implications for educators and how they affect the self-esteem and of students and their motivation. children
are highly influenced on the their own ideas of self-worth and such ideas can increase or decrease motivation in the classroom. Most importantly, it suggests that educators should be aware of the ways in which we give praise. teachers
should praise when students learn or do well, yet they should show enthusiasm towards strategies, rather than intelligence. Dweck contends that “instead of trying to convince our students that they are smart or simply enforcing rigorous standards in the hopes that doing so will create high motivation and achievement, teachers
should take the following steps: first, get students to focus on their potential to learn; second teach them to value challenge and learning processes in the face of obstacles (Dweck, 1999, p. ).” It may therefore be wise to reflect on the words and terms we use when giving praise, if we wish to truly increase student motivation in the classroom on a short and long-term basis.
Dweck, C. (1999, Spring). Caution – praise can be dangerous. American Educator, 1-5.