Carol Dweck wrote this article on December 2007. She is Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. She has held professorships at Columbia University and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her most recent book is Mindset. In this article she discuss the topic of raising smart children. Her theory is that with more than three decades of research an overemphasis on intellect or talent and the implication that such traits are innate and fixed-leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unmotivated to learn.
The article talks about different group studies, along with a few case studies. One case study, showed a young man, with good grades in school, was praised for being intelligent by his parents. Later the boy began to think school was easy, and did not work as hard. His grades eventually plummeted and never rose again. One group study was on elementary students. Some were given easy problems with praise for getting them correct. Others were given hard problems with praise emphasized on the effort. The study showed that children with praise to effort tried harder to solve problems. This type of learning is known as a growth mind set.
Realizing there are different types of students not only explains their failures differently, but they also hold different theories of intelligence. Helpless individuals believe that intelligence is a fixed trait, and you only have a certain amount. The mastery-oriented, on the other hand, think intelligence is malleable and can be developed through education and hard work. They want to learn above all else. Teaching people to have a “ growth mind set “ who encourages a focus on effort rather than on intelligence or talent produces high achievers in school and in life.
Parents and teachers can engender a growth mind set in children by praising children for their efforts or persistence, rather than for their intelligence. By telling success stories that emphasize hard work and love of learning, and by teaching them about the brain as a learning machine. Some examples of this are; You did a good job drawing. I like the detail you added to the people’s faces. You really studied for your social studies test. You read the material over several times, outlined it and tested yourself on it. It really worked!
On a group study they tested several hundred fifth graders on a nonverbal IQ test. They praised half the children by their intelligence, and the other half for their effort. They found that the ones praised on intelligence encouraged a fixed mined set. These children did not want hard questions. They wanted simpler ones. The other group, that was praise for effort, actually wanted the harder questions.
In conclusion the article has shown, based on theory, that telling your children they are intelligent gives them a fixed mined set. Praising your children for their effort gives them a growth mind set. Such lessons apply to almost every human endeavor. For instance, many young athletes value talent more than hard work and have consequently become un-teachable. Similarly, many people accomplish little in their jobs without constant praise and encouragement to maintain their motivation. If we foster a growth mindset in our homes and schools however, we will give our children the tools to succeed in their pursuits and to become responsible employees and citizens.