Research Assignment: Praising Students I chose to do my research activity on the article titled Caution: Praise Can Be Dangerous by Carol S. Dweck. The main goal that Dweck wanted to achieve was to prove that praising your students on their intelligence can in fact affect their academic achievement in a bad way. 85 percent of parents thought they needed to praise their children’s intelligence in order to assure that they were smart (Dweck 4). It was thought that if you boost a student’s self esteem that it would help them academically, but in certain ways, this was wrong.
The problems that the article dealt with were that if praise wasn’t handled properly, then “it can become a negative force, or a drug that rather than strengthening students, it makes them passive and dependent on the opinion of others” (Dweck, 4). If you use praise correctly, then it will help the students realize the value of effort, and become fulfilled with the accomplishments that they achieved on their own and want to succeed more. They also will have a better time dealing with any setbacks.
The theory that was said to be true about praising students was that: “Giving students many opportunities to experience success and then praising them for their success will indicate to them that they are intelligent if they feel good about their intelligence they will achieve. They will love learning and be confident and successful learners” (Dweck 4). Educators had this theory wrong because research shows that giving students easy tasks and praising their success just says to the students that in a way you think their unintelligent.
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In order to prove this theory wrong, Dwecks along with Melissa Kamins and Claudia Miller held an experiment. This experiment was conducted of six different studies with more than 400 fifth graders. The goal was to study the effects of praising children for being intelligent. Among the 400 fifth graders, they included people of different ethnicities, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds, and were tested from all different parts of the country. This prevented any faults or biased opinions to be conducted in the experiment.
They also made sure that some students were taken from schools in the city and some in more rural areas. This is something that you would want to do in any experiment given in order to get a variety of different subjects. First they began working with students one at a time on a more challenging puzzle task that was easy enough for them to all do well on it. They praised one third of the children for their intelligence, saying that they were “very smart” for knowing how to do that and telling that they got a certain amount correct and that they were amazed by it.
The second group of people were tested and were told that they got a good score and praised on their effort of the task. The last third of the group was praised on their performance, with no comment on why they were successful. After the experiment, all students were happy about the outcome and were eager to do their take-home practice problems and were confident on their future performances. During the second part of the experiment, the same students were asked if they wanted to try a more challenging task from which they could learn a lot (but might not succeed) or an easier one where they would do well and look smart.
Students praised on intelligence said they wanted to do the easier one, and 90% of the students that were praised on effort wanted to do the more challenging task. (The ones tested on performance were 50/50, so she wasn’t going to focus on them. ) When it came time to actually do the harder task, the students tested on intelligence didn’t like it and weren’t interested in doing the take home problems. They even started questioning their intelligence thinking they were dumb. The effort tested students liked the task and some even like the harder problems better than the easier ones!
This is where we start seeing the differences in the right and wrong types of praising. When we praise children for intelligence , were teaching them that this is what they want to achieve. They want to look and feel smart, so don’t risk making a mistake. When we praise them on effort and hard work, they realize the value of what they’re doing to succeed and get to realize their improvement and efforts, therefore having a better long-term successful academic achievement. For the last part of the experiment, they had the students go back and re-do the first task that they had did before.
The intelligence students had an even worse performance and did worse than the first time, and the effort students performed the best and better than they did in the first place. After this, they were to write a litter to a student in another school telling them about the tasks that they had to do and how they tried them. The intelligence students actually lied about their scores to make them seem smarter, and the effort students didn’t exaggerate at all on their performance.
This just says that failure becomes more of a problem when we praise students on intelligence, and they think that intelligence is something that you either don’t or do have instead of being a skill or knowledge. Our students should know that there are tasks and problems that they aren’t going to know how to do and that it shouldn’t discourage them, but make them want to learn more about it because they’re trying so hard and doing a great job of learning. This experiment was applied to education very well by the author herself.
She states that you can’t just forget about the students feelings because what we say to them will affect how they think that we view them. We can praise our students as much as we want, BUT we need to do it when they learn or do well, and NOT praise them on how smart they are because it stops the students from setting the bar any higher. Dweck wants us to “rave about their effort and ask questions that show intelligent appreciation” (8). This would be a proper way to praise the students because you can still remind them that they are intelligent, but in a way that they are doing the right thing effort wise and giving it their all.
You can’t waste your student’s time by giving them tasks that are too easy that make them look good, but need to test their ability and give them more challenging responsibilities. Dwecks even tested these theories on students going into junior high from elementary school and going into college from high school. She found that the students who believed that intelligence was fixed and that a poor grade or performance meant that they were dumb, and some wanted to consider cheating if they didn’t do well.
These students did even worse grade wise than they did in elementary school and didn’t grow intellectually. However, students who believed that intellect can be developed, and that a bad performance was because of lack of their effort and they needed to study more. These students were in the right mind set to allow the new school environment to encourage them to do well in school. All in all, student’s ideas and levels of intelligence can be influenced by the messages that they receive from teachers and parents.
We need to encourage and praise them on their efforts, not their intelligence. We can allow them to feel smart in different ways instead of just telling them, “Wow! You got this many right, you must be really smart, good job! ” This will make them want to get this reaction so they keep their achievement and difficulty level low so they can seem smart. This will keep them on the road to disappointment academically. Keep your students on task and striving for new goals and wanting to learn. Like Dwecks says, “Believing is Achieving! ”
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