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The Problem with Praise

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					The Problem With Praise
Cindy Sheets
cindysheets@smsd.org Kathy Jones kathyjones@cableone.net

Success Defined



The achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted
Success is the accomplishment of goals and objectives necessary to achieve a particular task, realize a particular dream or satisfy a particular need or want, for a particular period of time.
Maryse A. Nelson

Questions to Ponder
Are you more intelligent than you were 5 years ago? 10 years ago? 20 years?  Do you believe that intelligence is an innate ability and doesn‟t change?  Do you believe that you can improve skills and abilities by practicing or learning new techniques?  Do you believe that it‟s important for your child‟s success to tell them that they‟re smart?


A Columbia University survey learned that 85% of American parents think that it‟s important to tell their kids that they‟re smart.  A large percentage of gifted students severely underestimate their own abilities and adopt lower standards for success. They expect less of themselves.


Emily
Enjoyed school, especially science  High achiever, identified gifted  Non-traditional science fair project  I learned what I wanted to learn  Self directed – autonomy  Always ready for the next challenge


Linda
Identified gifted 1st grade  Hesitant to initiate activities  Asked for help with everything  Parents often resorted to “force”  By 3rd grade, initiates activities and willing to take risks


David
       

High performance and praised by teachers and parents Never worked hard to achieve goals New tasks difficult: avoided them Began to doubt his abilities Backed out of honors/advanced class opportunities Little engagement in classroom activities Grades began to drop Refused to ask for help or accept help

Locus of Control
 

Internal External

Attribution Theory - Weiner
To what do you attribute your success or failure? •Luck •Ability •Difficulty of Task •Effort

Attributing the Cause of Events
 

I just can‟t do this stuff. I‟m no good at it
 Lack

of ability

I didn‟t do so well, but I knew I wouldn‟t. I didn‟t study hard enough.
 Lack

of effort



I didn‟t know what the heck was going on and I got a B. The teacher must not have read my paper!
 Luck

Research suggests that teaching children and adults to attribute their successes and failures to internal, controllable events such as effort leads to people developing more control over situations and their life choices.

Carol S. Dweck, Research Study Effects of Praise
400 5th grade students, New York  Randomly divided into two groups  Given individual nonverbal IQ test consisting of puzzles (easy)

 Group
 You

1. Praised for intelligence
scored ____. You must be smart at this.

 Group
 You

2. Praised for effort

scored ____. You must have worked really hard.

Part 2 of study


Students given a choice
 More

difficult test but you‟ll learn a lot  Easy test, similar to the first one



Group 1 (intelligence)
 Majority  90%

chose the easy test

Group 2 (effort)
chose the more difficult test

Part 3


Very difficult test (2 yrs above level)
 No

choices. All students failed the test  Group 1 (intelligence)– were miserable
 Failure

interpreted as evidence they weren‟t really smart

 Group

2 (effort)– stayed engaged in the test, very persistent
 Failure

interpreted as their lack of focusing hard enough. Some even said this was their “favorite test”

Part 4


Tests easy – as the first
 Group  Group

1 (intelligence)
about 20% lower than first test by about 30%

 Scored

2 (effort)

 Increased scores

Conclusions
Emphasizing effort gives students a variable that they can control  Praising intelligence sends a message “Look smart – don‟t risk mistakes.”


Theories of Intelligence (perception)
Dweck – in our self perception of what intelligence is like, we either hold an „entity theory‟ or „incremental theory‟ of that intelligence *
* Also called “fixed” or “growth” mindsets

Entity Theory
Intelligence is Fixed

Important to appear smart with little effort  Need to achieve for specific performance goals, (which assess an ability)  Low risk takers


Entity (fixed)
  
 

Failure will be perceived as evidence of low intelligence Develop goals based on being the best, or avoiding failure May believe circumstances are beyond their control and give up Past or present success does not ensure future success Those with success history may be most vulnerable (learned helplessness)

David
       

High performance and praised by teachers and parents Never worked hard to achieve goals New tasks difficult: avoided them Began to doubt his abilities Backed out of honors/advanced class opportunities Little engagement in classroom activities Grades began to drop Refused to ask for help or accept help

Incremental Theory (Growth)
Intelligence can be Changed

Enjoy challenge even if makes them appear less smart  Learning goals and persistence are valued (mastering new things)  Ready for next challenge rather than repeating success


Incremental (growth)
Remain interested in learning and challenge even after failure  Belief that Effort (through increased learning and strategy development) will increase intelligence


Emily
Enjoyed school, especially science  High achiever, identified gifted  Non-traditional science fair project  I learned what I wanted to learn  Self directed – autonomy  Always ready for the next challenge


Dweck’s Conclusions:
“praise for intelligence rather than effort creates vulnerability in high-ability students that does not show up until they experience setbacks and failure”

Secondary Study
 

Life Sciences Magnet, East Harlem
 Low

performing in math

Study Habits and Skills sessions  Control group 2- 50 minute lessons
 The

brain is a muscles and it gets stronger with effort and exercise



Control group showed improved study habits and grades in just one semester

So What About
Self Esteem?

Self Esteem?
15,000 scholarly articles 1970-2000 supporting connection between selfesteem and praise  Reviews in 2003 – only 200 met rigorous scientific standards

 None

of these showed the connection

Unrealistic Self-Expectations
After self-esteem movement


95% of seniors said they will enroll in college
% actually did Before self esteem movement
 62



50% of seniors said they would enroll in college
 50%

actually did

“The surest path to high self-esteem is to be successful at something one perceived would be difficult! Each time we steal a student’s struggle, we steal the opportunity for them to build self-confidence. They must learn to do difficult things to feel good about themselves.” Sylvia Rimm

Praise – What’s Your Style?
Simon Cowell Or Paula Abdul

Wulf-Uwe Meyer Study
observation of others Only children under age 7 take praise at face-value  By age 12, teacher praise seen as evidence that a student needs help and encouragement and lacks ability  Teacher criticism was interpreted as showing belief in student‟s ability to do better


Praise = Pressure


Liberal use of unqualified praise leads to students‟ questioning themselves
this right? Is this OK?  Seeking reassurance
 Is



Must keep up “image” to keep the praise coming – become “praise junkies”

Results of Over-Praising (Dweck)
Become risk-averse  Lack perceived autonomy  Image maintenance becomes main concern  May lie or cheat to maintain image

 Lack

strategies for handling failure

Enron & Malcolm Gladwell
Collapse of Enron due to talent obsessed culture  Executives celebrated and rewarded for their innate talent

 Rather

lie than admit to problems and work to fix them

Failure to live up to one’s potential may be associated with an inability to take realistic risks.

Benefits of Risk Taking
•Increases confidence about abilities •Increases self-efficacy •Develops skills for managing fears •Provides practice in decision making •Opportunity for growth and leadership

Linda
Identified gifted 1st grade  Hesitant to initiate activities  Asked for help with everything  Parents often resorted to “force”  By 3rd grade, initiates activities and willing to take risks


Dr. Robert Cloninger – Brain Research
Ability to repeatedly respond to failure by exerting effort develops persistence and ability to delay gratification  Brain actually develops circuitry for persistence with intermittent reinforcement

 Missing

with constant reward (praise)

“Parents should not shield or try to protect children from risks or hard work. Parents also need to allow children to experience the tensions and stress that rise from challenging ideas and high expectations.”
Olszewski-Kubilius, 2000

Extraordinary achievement is primarily attributed to nonintellectual factors, especially perseverance.

In Risk-Friendly Environments
•

Mistakes are viewed as opportunities Goals are stressed over procedures
We are actively seeking change

•
•

• •
•

We are playful We expect individuals to set their own goals We allow people to choose their own risks

But shouldn’t we praise our kids?
All Praise is NOT equal  Praise CAN be effective


the right kind of praise  Use at the right time  Not confused with encouragement  Not confused with manipulation

 Use

Good Praise Practice
 

Be specific
 Constructive feedback

Be sincere
empty praise  Don‟t praise undeserved success!
 No

 

Praise the process not the person
 Strategies, decisions,

work accomplished

Praise at the END of the work process

Helping our Children Meet Success:
What Can We Do?

Reward effort – not perfection  Reward risk and progress  Applaud persistence  Break tasks down into small steps  Acknowledge „learning‟ not „work‟  Honor time invested  Help them learn to prioritize


Resources
 

 

Social & Emotional Needs of the Gifted: What Do We Really Know? Prufrock Press, NAGC Self-Theories: Their role in motivation, personality and development. Carol Dweck Philadelphia: Psychology Press 1999 Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Random House (February 28, 2006) The Problem with Praise
http://www.onpointradio.org/shows/2007/02/2007021 6_b_main.asp



Why Praise Can be Bad For Kids by Anne Pleshette Murphy & Jennifer Allen http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/AmericanFamily /story?id=2877896&page=1



How Not To Talk To Your Kids: The Inverse Power of Praise, by Po Bronson
http://nymag.com/news/features/27840



The Effort Effect
Stanford Magazine, March/April 2007





http://www.stanfordalumni.org/news/magazin e/2007/marapr/features/dweck.html A Motivational Approach to Reasoning, Resilience and Responsibility (chapter of book) http://aim.psch.uic.edu/documents/Good.Dw eckCh.pdf Stanford University Research Report http://newsservice.stanford.edu/news/2007/f ebruary7/dweck-020707.html

Research Works by Carol S. Dweck
 Mueller,

C. M. & Dweck, C. S. (1998). Intelligence praise can undermine motivation and performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology ,75, 3352.  Dweck, C.S. (1998). The development of early self-conceptions: Their relevance for motivational processes. In J. Heckhausen & C.S. Dweck (Eds.), Motivation and selfregulation across the life span. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


				
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