Praising children for their accomplishments often comes easy to most. Whether it’s for painting a picture of their family in kindergarten or scoring a 1400 on the SAT’s, it’s often second nature for adults to laud children for their talents and intelligence. But it could be that these seemingly positive accolades have a negative effect on how children learn and their self-esteem.
At the recent American School Counselor Association (ASCA) Conference held in Denver, Colorado, Laurel Springs School (LSS) counselor, Megan Corcoran, had the privilege of attending the presentation led by Dr. Carol S. Dweck. Dr. Dweck, the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, is a leading researcher in the field of motivation. Specifically, her work focuses on how student success is affected by the fixed and growth mindsets.
Dr. Dweck maintains those with a fixed mindset see qualities like talent and intelligence as static. Instead of developing these qualities further through increased effort, more energy is devoted to documenting or proving these traits. For instance, in one study, Dr. Dweck had a group of four-year-olds choose between simple and difficult jigsaw puzzles. Those children demonstrating a fixed mindset often chose the easier puzzle, because it would be easier to finish, thus being a success.
The growth mindset, however, focuses on sustained effort and strategy as keys to achievement, with failure being not evidence of ignorance, but an opportunity to extend beyond existing abilities. Those with the growth mindset were probably commended for their hard work. In the study referenced above, children demonstrating a growth mindset mostly chose the more difficult puzzles, as these children saw success as being the opportunity to learn.
Laurel Springs School firmly believes that all students are capable of developing abilities given the opportunity and is committed to cultivating an environment of growth mindsets aimed at guiding students to joyful learning while fostering each of their unique learning styles. According to Corcoran, this is accomplished by mirroring Dr. Dreck’s approach, encouraging students to learn from mistakes by reframing them as benefits to the learning process.
If you have a moment, please watch a lecture given by Dr. Dweck here.