The paradox of praise: fixed and growth mindsets in young children.

A key factor in determining whether a child becomes extrinsically or intrinsically motivated is the way we, as teachers or parents, respond to their efforts and achievements.

This workshop will explore how unearned “automatic pilot” praise can interfere with significant learning opportunities and dispositions. We will investigate and refine alternative responses, and gain an understanding as to how certain responses can either foster or diminish a powerful “growth” mindset in children.

There will be discussion concerning recent and relevant research, particularly by Carol Dweck, on growth and fixed mindsets. We will consider why some young children are happy to give something a go and take on a challenge without being afraid of making mistakes, compared to other children who are reluctant to attempt something new for fear of failure.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this workshop participants will be able to :

  • appreciate the impact of a teacher’s response on children’s learning dispositions
  • alter praise statements to validating statements that show reflective listening and a more accurate observation of the child
  • articulate the difference between ‘fixed’ and “growth” mindsets

“Would you like me to give you a formula for … success ? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure… You’re thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all… You can be discouraged by failure – or you can learn from it. So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because, remember that’s where you’ll find success. On the far side.”

Thomas J. Watson


Praise is external validation from someone in the child’s life designed to shape behaviour by reinforcing appropriate behaviour. Encouragement is respectful and reflective communication that enhances self-esteem by placing the valuing of experience in the child’s hands.