Process Praise

If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to become slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence. Dr Carol S Dweck

What is being said here is that praising intelligence can harm motivation and hinder performance. Carol Dweck’s research revealed that the way in which young people are praised will make a significant difference to their mindset and ability to persist through struggle. Praise for being ‘clever’ or ‘talented’ and fixating on the outcomes can reinforce a fixed mindset and cap potential. Praise for persistence, effort, organisation, listening, trying different strategies or staying focused on a task, reinforces the growth mindset – we must praise the process of learning. Rather than lauding natural talent, we can link the strategies they have used to the outcomes of the task and see results as a gauge of the progress being made.

Try to...

  • Notice good efforts or strategies and praise them.
  • Be specific about the praised behaviours, reinforce this behaviour with your feedback.
  • Use praise to link the outcomes of an assignment to their efforts.
  • Talk explicitly and in detail about the strategies a student has used.
  • Comment on which strategies were helpful and which were not.
  • Ask them to explain their work to you.

Try not to...

  • Offer praise for trivial accomplishments or weak efforts.
  • Shelter learners from results, they are the measuring stick required for progress.
  • Inflate praise, particularly for those with low self-esteem, avoid using the word ‘but’.
  • Let them feel ashamed of difficulty, instead treat ‘struggle’ as a chance to learn.
  • Say, “You’re really clever” in response to good work. Instead, praise the work done.
  • Comfort those who struggle by saying that not everyone can be good at everything.

This short cropped video animation, courtesy of the RSA, is a great starting point on praise…