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More Process Praise & Less Person Praise

November 29, 2017

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An area of focus for Saline Area Schools, particularly over the last few years, has been to help develop a growth mindset in each of our students.  People in a “growth mindset” believe anyone can be good at anything, because your abilities are entirely due to your actions.  People with a “fixed mindset” believe you either are or aren’t good at something, based on your inherent nature, because it’s just who you are.

Dr. Carol S. Dweck, a professor at Stanford University, has been the leading voice on developing growth mindsets as a strategy for helping students become lifelong learners.  She states,

“If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.”

One of the ways we can help students is to praise the “process” vs. praise the “person”.  The idea that being “smart” means learning comes easy is myth, but one that persists in the minds of many.  A fixed mindset about being smart or not can lead students to avoid challenges for fear of not looking smart.  Here are a few examples of how process praise vs. person praise can work:

Person Praise: You are such a good student!

Process Praise: I like the way you stayed focused & you kept working on it.  That is great.


Person Praise: You got it! I told you that you were smart!

Process Praise: I like the way you tried all kinds of strategies on that problem until you got it!


Person Praise: See, you are good at English. You got an A on your last test.

Process Praise: You really studied for your English test and your improvement shows it.


Person Praise: Great Job! You must be smart at this.

Process Praise: Great Job! You must have worked really hard.

Challenging the beliefs of students with fixed mindsets with process praise can help them see the value and benefits of focused effort, engagement, and perseverance.


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