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Mindsets, Motivation and Engagement

Carol Dweck’s Important Work on Mindsets

Praising students’ effort is more effective than praising inherent intelligence.

The wrong kind of praise creates self-defeating behavior. The right kind motivates students to learn.

The work of Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University and the author of “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” is very impressive. Her research related to “mindsets” is of critical importance to all teachers and parents, and especially to teachers and parents of gifted students. Our tendency to praise gifted students for their intelligence may actually be detrimental to their long term intellectual growth and development as the following excerpt from a recent article summarizes:

dweck book

(This picture is borrowed from a review of another recent article [the Stanford Magazine article, see below], posted at

“Educators commonly believe that praising students’ intelligence builds their confidence and motivation to learn and that students’ inherent intelligence is the major cause of their school achievement. [Carol Dweck’s] research shows that, on the contrary, praising students’ intelligence can be problematic. Praise is intricately connected to how students view their intelligence. Some students assume that intellectual ability is a fixed trait, that either they have it or they don't. Students in this fixed mind-set seek tasks that prove their intelligence and avoid ones that they might struggle with. Praising students for their intelligence tends to promote the fixed mind-set. Other students believe that they can develop their intellectual ability through effort and education. They take on challenges and learn from them. Praising students for their effort encourages this growth mind-set. Interventions that make students aware of the plasticity of the brain and the malleable quality of intelligence motivate students by boosting their confidence in their ability to grow and learn.” (from, “The Perils and Promises of Praise” Educational Leadership, October 2007,Volume 65 Number 2, pp 34 – 39, © 2007 by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development).

Encouraging a Growth Mindset

Dweck’s mindset research has been getting a lot of attention, lately. Here are several resources for you to peruse, and we highly recommend you read her book, Mindset: