But a study of 412 students in 5th grade found that doing so can actually hurt their learning.
All children in the study were told they did well on a series of problems, regardless of how they did. Then they were told they did poorly on a second test.
Those who were earlier told they did well because they were smart at the problems blamed their later failure on lack of intelligence. The children who were told they did well because they worked hard blamed their failure on a lack of effort.
On a later assignment, the children who were earlier praised for being “smart” chose tasks on which they knew they would do well. Their damaged self-esteem and fear of “not being smart enough” caused them to avoid learning challenges.
The “hard workers” chose tasks they thought might teach them something. Their belief that concentration and effort will pay off keeps them motivated to learn, the researchers concluded.
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