Head of School’s Letter

Incremental Praise vs. Entity Praise

Posted by Michelle on February 6, 2020

In educational nomenclature, “incremental intelligence theory” explains that intelligence can be increased with effort. The “entity theory” of intelligence describes intelligence as being fixed. Praise can be given to a child in a way that supports either the incremental or entity theory of intelligence. Incremental praise helps a student to reflect on the process of learning and the effort one puts forth. Praising students for their intelligence has been shown to prevent them from tackling challenges that are difficult.

Incremental Praise                                                                            Entity Praise

“I like that you looked for different ways                                               “You got that math problem right – you are so smart.”
to solve that math problem until you got it right.”

“You worked hard on your Howler Monkey research –                       “I can see from your research on Howler Monkeys
tell me some interesting facts that you learned.”                                  that you are the best writer in the class!”

“We can praise children as much as we want for the growth-oriented process – what they accomplished through practice, study, persistence and good strategies.” (Carol Dweck, Mindset The New Psychology of Success, 2006)

Incremental praise allows children to be accepting of mistakes and become comfortable taking academic risks. This is a foundational element of Montessori philosophy. The next time your child shares a work, or gets a good grade, I encourage you to engage him or her in a conversation by asking questions and giving feedback on their work.

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