Why some kids try harder and some kids give up

My 18-month-old struggled to buckle the straps on her high chair. “Almost,” she muttered as she tried again and again. “Almost,” I agreed, trying not to hover. When she got it, I exclaimed, “You did it! It was hard, but you kept trying, and you did it. I’m so proud of you.”

Snapped the buckleThe way I praised her took a little effort on my part. If I hadn’t known better, I might have just said, “Clever girl!” (Or even “Here, let me help you with that.”) What’s so bad about that? Read on.

Stanford researcher Carol Dweck has been studying motivation and perseverance since the 1960s. And she found that children fall into one of two categories:

  • Those with a fixed mindset, who believe their successes are a result of their innate talent or smarts
  • Those with a growth mindset, who believe their successes are a result of their hard work

Fixed mindset: ‘If you have to work hard, you don’t have ability’

Kids with a fixed mindset believe that you are stuck with however much intelligence you’re born with. They would agree with this statement: “If you have to work hard, you don’t have ability. If you have ability, things come naturally to you.” When they fail, these kids feel trapped. They start thinking they must not be as talented or smart as everyone’s been telling them. They avoid challenges, fearful that they won’t look smart.

Growth mindset: ‘The more you challenge yourself, the smarter you become’

Kids with a growth mindset believe that intelligence can be cultivated: the more learning you do, the smarter you become. These kids understand that even geniuses must work hard. When they suffer a setback, they believe they can improve by putting in more time and effort. They value learning over looking smart. They persevere through difficult tasks.

What creates these beliefs in our kids? The type of praise we give them–even starting at age 1.

read the research and full article on;


Dylan Wiliam talks, communicating with parents, effort and differentiation

In conversation: Dylan Wiliam

On the topic of communicating student achievement, the academic said ‘we’ve actually basically lied to parents that the information we’re giving them is useful and meaningful … these grades that we give to students, really don’t tell parents anything at all’.

He recalled a conversation with one parent during his time as a mathematics teacher in London. ‘He was pushing me to tell him what “position” his child was in the class – his “rank” in the class. I resisted and resisted, and eventually I gave in and I said “okay, he’s in the top three, but it’s the worst class I’ve ever taught. So, now what do you think you know?”

‘The point is, that parents think As and Bs and Cs and Ds are meaningful, but what we should be asking the parents is: “Now, what do you think you know about your child now that I’ve told you he’s got an A?” And the answer is “nothing”, so I think there’s been a bit of dishonesty here, because we’ve pretended to parents that these grades are meaningful, and they’re really not.’

Wiliam argued parents not only need quality information about how their child is doing, but also quality information about how they can get better involved in their learning.

‘Certainly in secondary school parents do need to be involved in understanding whether their child is likely to get into medical school or not. I think it’s a disaster if an 18-year-old finds out that they can’t go to medical school because their grades aren’t there, because nobody has told them that they’re failing. So, there’s a difficult balancing act to be struck I think, but I would say that the balance at the moment is far too far towards telling students where they are, rather than helping them get better.

‘And, when we’ve helped schools change communication systems, when you advise schools to tell parents not where their child is, but what that child needs to do to get better, then the parents are usually very positive – provided you explain the changes to them.

‘… we have to help parents understand that really they should be concerned about things like “is the teacher giving feedback that helps the learner move forward?” rather than just telling them how well they’re doing right now.

Click the link to watch the full video or read the article in the teacher magazine