For over a decade Carol Dweck and her team studied the effects of praise on students. This study involved a series of experiments on over 400 5th graders from all over the country.

The results will blow your mind.

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To start, Carol Dweck and her team gave all the students a really easy non-verbal IQ test. At the end of the test they praised the students in one of two ways:

One group was praised for their intelligence: “Wow great job – You must be really smart at this”

The other group was praised for their effort: “Wow great job – You must of worked really hard at this”

Dweck wanted to look at how this subtle difference in the way that they were praised effects the students mindset and performance.

After praising the children they gave them an option for the next test. One choice was to take a harder test that Dweck told the children would be quite difficult, but a great opportunity to learn and grow. The other choice was to take a second test that was similar to the first, and one they would surely do well on.

67% of the students that were praised for their intelligence chose the easier option. While 92% of the students that were praised for their effort chose the harder option!

The next test they gave the students was incredibly difficult – One that they would surely all fail. Carol Dweck wanted to look at how the different groups attacked this challenge. She noticed:

The effort group worked harder, longer, and actually enjoyed this test more than the intelligence group – Who quickly became frustrated and gave up early.

For the final step of the study Carol Dweck and her team gave all of the students a test that was just as easy as the first. The results are pretty convincing:

The intelligence group actually did worse on this test than they did on the first. Their average score dropped by 20%

The effort group did better. Their average score ended up increasing by 30%.

It’s amazing that such a subtle difference in the way that they were praised had such an impact on the students and their mindsets.

For the full interview with Carol Dweck click here:


Thanks to Carol Dweck for the interview!
Song: “My Other Love” by Pretty Lights
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How to predict students' performance?

Talk presented at SSCI2014, in Orlando.

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Abstract: Student performance depends upon factors other than intrinsic ability, such as environment, socio-economic status, personality and familial-context. Capturing these patterns of influence may enable an educator to ameliorate some of these factors, or for governments to adjust social policy accordingly. In order to understand these factors, we have undertaken the exercise of predicting student performance, using a cohort of approximately 8,000 South African college students. They all took a number of tests in English and Maths. We show that it is possible to predict English comprehension test results from (1) other test results; (2) from covariates about self-efficacy, social economic status, and specific learning difficulties there are 100 survey questions altogether; (3) from other test results + covariates (combination of (1) and (2)); and from (4) a more advanced model similar to (3) except that the covariates are subject to dimensionality reduction (via PCA). Models 1-4 can predict student performance up to a standard error of 13-15%. In comparison, a random guess would have a standard error of 17%. In short, it is possible to conditionally predict student performance based on self-efficacy, socio-economic background, learning difficulties, and related academic test results.
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