20 Apr 2011

how to train your ‘dragon’

I came across an interesting little article yesterday, on how praising children works in different ways.

Praising students especially to motivate them, is all well and good, but it seems that HOW we praise them may be even more important. Consider though that

Dozens of studies have found that top performers - whether in maths, music or whatever - learn no faster than those who reach lower levels of attainment - hour after hour, they improve at almost identical rates.

The difference is simply that high achievers practise for more hours. Further research has shown that when students seem to possess a particular gift, it is often because they have been given extra tuition at home by their parents.

So how do we use this information, coupled with praise, to get the best out of our little ones?

A few years ago, Carol Dweck, a leading psychologist, took 400 students and gave them a simple puzzle.

Afterwards, each of the students were given six words of praise.

Half were praised for intelligence: "Wow, you must be really smart!"

The other half were praised for effort: "Wow, you must be hard working!"

Dweck was seeking to test whether these simple words, with their subtly different emphases, could make a difference to the student's mind-sets. The results were remarkable.

After the first test, the students were given a choice of whether to take a hard or an easy test.

A full two-thirds of the students praised for intelligence chose the easy task - they did not want to risk losing their "smart" label. But 90% of the effort-praised group chose the tough test - they wanted to prove just how hard working they were.

Then, the experiment came full circle, giving the students a chance to take a test of equal difficulty to the first test.

The group praised for intelligence showed a 20% decline in performance compared with the first test, even though it was no harder. But the effort-praised group increased their score by 30%. Failure had actually spurred them on. Many people believe that talent is a fixed quality.

And all these differences turned on the difference in six simple words spoken after the very first test.

And there you have it.