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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Praising effort may backfire

Praising students’ effort, rather than their intelligence, is supposed to encourage them to try harder, improve and build a “growth mindset,” writes Sarah D. Sparks in Education Week.

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But that sort of praise can backfire with teens, concludes a University of Pittsburgh study. Teens often get the message that “the student needs to work hard because of low innate ability,” not that effort leads to improvement, the researchers write. “Secondary schools often value innate ability more than effort and adolescents are conscious of ability stereotypes.”

Teachers and parents often praise effort, but not the successful strategies students use to learn, says co-author Jamie Amemiya. “The strategies part is really important, because that gives kids information on what they did correctly and what they can keep improving.”

Mary Murphy, an associate psychology professor and mindset researcher at Indiana University, told Sparks teachers should let students assess their learning, think about what they got wrong and what strategies they might try and discuss their struggles and strengths with classmates.

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