The research on language and mindset shows how crucial the words we use are on developing growth mindsets.

Effective feedback in the classroom is critical to achievement, and mindset researchers have found that the nature of praise is a key part of that.[1]  Praising use of effort and strategies used (e.g. “I see how you worked hard to come to that conclusion.”) can lead children to perform at a higher level, as they obtain meaningful recognition for work undertaken rather than a perceived innate intelligence.

Praising innate intelligence (e.g. “You’re so clever at this”) decreases motivation and performance, causes children to avoid challenges and to display learned helplessness when faced with hurdles.[2]

Carol Dweck has carried out research studies into the effect of praise and language used, and found that praising cleverness is a bad idea. It has even been shown to encourage cheating in experiments, as children are fearful of failure and looking stupid.[3]

[1] Schroeder, J., & Fishbach, A. (2015). How to Motivate Yourself and Others? Intended and Unintended Consequences. Research in Organizational Behavior, 35, 123-141.

Zentall, S. R., & Morris, B. J. (2010). Good job, you’re so smart: The effects of inconsistency of praise type on young children’s motivation. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 107(2), 155-163.

[2] Mueller, C. M.; Dweck, C. S.  (1998) Praise for intelligence can undermine children’s motivation and performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 75(1), 33-52.

[3] Blackwell, L.S., Trzesniewski, K.H., Dweck, C.S. (2007) Implicit theories predict achievement across an adolescent transition: a longitudinal study and an intervention. Child Development, Vol 78 (1), 246-263

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