What Is “Process” Praise and Why Should You Use It?

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Last week’s most-clicked ASCD SmartBrief story underscored the importance of praising students for effort and the processes they use to learn. This cultivates what Carol Dweck calls a “growth mindset,” and helps kids identify the practices that develop their knowledge and skills, and supports their perseverance toward goals, by acknowledging hard work over so-called innate talent.

The idea that being smart means learning comes easy is one of the myths that haunt students. This fixed mindset leads students to avoid challenges for fear of looking stupid. Dweck says teachers can challenge students’ fixed mindset beliefs by using effort or “process” praise—for engagement, perseverance, strategies, improvement, and the like. She provides some examples of process praise in her Educational Leadership article, “The Perils and Promises of Praise“:

  • You really studied for your English test, and your improvement shows it. You read the material over several times, outlined it, and tested yourself on it. That really worked!
  • I like the way you tried all kinds of strategies on that math problem until you finally got it.
  • It was a long, hard assignment, but you stuck to it and got it done. You stayed at your desk, kept up your concentration, and kept working. That’s great!
  • I like that you took on that challenging project for your science class. It will take a lot of work—doing the research, designing the machine, buying the parts, and building it. You’re going to learn a lot of great things.
  • For the student who gets an A without trying: “All right, that was too easy for you. Let’s do something more challenging that you can learn from.”
  • For the student who works hard and doesn’t do well: “I liked the effort you put in. Let’s work together some more and figure out what you don’t understand.”

How do you praise effort instead of talent in your classroom?

7 COMMENTS

  1. I like these ideas. I will tell my student you are on the right track. I see what you are thinking. That looks good. That’s a good idea. These encourage a student to keep trying. They need that added push. Especially in the area of mathematics, students need this nudge and encouragement, because such of the great fear or dislike of mathematics.
    Marilyn Curtain-Phillips of http://www.math-attack.com

  2. Providing positive feedback to students is essential. The same way we enjoy getting a pat on the back, so do our students. I loved the suggestions that we provided.

  3. In my experiences as a teacher, I have found that to be true. Finding the time to find the right match to the students’ learning style, while admittedly using a lot of a teacher’s planning minutes, can be most beneficial and can help break that negative cycle studied by Dweck. My husband works with the behavioral and emotional special education students at the high school level, and he is very skilled in bringing out the best in individual students and in their work. I too find that listening to a child’s explanation of their answer or approach helps me see things through their eyes, a path to a solution that I may have not thought of myself. Sometimes it is your time and attention that the student needs from you, nothing more.

  4. I loved reading this blog. I feel like many times as teachers we forget to praise our struggling students on the things that they are doing well. Also, the students who are succeeding, we may praise but do not push them to go to the next level. We always need to bring the best out in our students, especially the ones who struggle. Sometimes they are forgotten but are the ones who need the praise the most.

  5. In my opinion the ideas listed on praising students are valuable. In my classroom I praise my students for their efforts and accomplishments. I use words of encouragement that gives them the motivation to continue and try harder. The praising for effort and participation gives my struggling students a sense of success.

  6. What a great underused tool praise is. I think as teachers, we have a tendency to overlook some of the simple things we can do to get our students motivated because our days are so jammed full of criteria that needs to be met. I have recently made it a point to get back to those simple little phrases that I can quickly say to a struggling learner while signing their agenda, passing them in the hall, etc. I have found that this makes such a huge difference in their attitude when they come to my classroom. The huge smiles I receive from them when hearing my praise is enough to motivate me to remember to give those praising comments even when I am hurrying to my next task. I do praise my students as a whole on a daily basis, but singling them out has made an even bigger impact on their confidence in learning.

  7. I think praise and motivation are needed and craved by our students. I teach math all day long and it can be a frustrating subject for kids. I always give them an opportunity to answer. I try very hard not to rush them and let them develop their answer at their own speed. I give positive feedback in the form of “that’s great” or “I am so proud of you.” I also encourage positive feedback for my students and their peers. Negativity is not allowed. We encourage each other and help one another. Many times middle school students bring each other down on a daily basis. Unfortunately, it is the culture we live in. We do not roll our eyes or laugh at an incorrect answer. I try to foster a supportive environment. I want them to learn. I am proud of them everyday. I want them to have pride in themselves.

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