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Praising effort rather than accomplishment.

We wanted to see if praising effort rather than accomplishment could help during our PE lessons and clubs.

We were first introduced to the idea of praising effort from Carol Dweck’s best selling book, 'Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential'.

There is no one right way or wrong way to do things, but we thought the following story was particularly interesting as it highlighted a new way to approach some of the things that happen during our lessons and clubs with children. The implications have the potential to be life changing and we’re excited to share this one story with you.

Our Primary Schools Lead, Dan Lawton was out playing with his 4 year old niece during the summer. Whilst rooting through his old toy box, his young niece found a puzzle disk from the Rubix Cube range. The idea of the puzzle is to set all of the disks in a line so that it makes a complete pattern.

Dan explains: “I set up the puzzle for my niece and showed her the aim of the game. After trying for 20 seconds, she worked out how to move the pieces and was soon on her way to completing her first puzzle.

"I was so excited for her. It was her first go and I showered her with praise. I praised the fact that she had completed the puzzle and that she should be proud of herself for finishing. She was beaming and called her mum over to show her the accomplishment.

"She asked me to shuffle the puzzle so that she could give it another go. I did and handed it back. She smiled as she completed the puzzle again. I gave her the same reception as before - congratulating her for completing the puzzle.

"She handed me back the puzzle and asked for another shuffle. As I was shuffling I asked her if she’d like me to make it harder or easier than before. She asked for easier.

"I know it’s was a simple and quick answer from my niece, but according to Carol Dweck’s studies, my niece was naturally looking for the quickest and easiest way to be praised. I had just showed her how excited I could get when she completed a task. Why would she want to risk that great feeling by making things too hard and potentially not complete the puzzle?

"I made the puzzle easier for her as she requested and handed it back to her. But this time, instead of talking about how great she was for completing the puzzle, I changed my approach. I started to talk about the effort she was putting in. I praised the fact she wasn’t giving up when it got hard and talked about how great it was to watch her learn and figure out the puzzle for herself.

"She completed the puzzle again and waited for my praise. This time, I didn’t praise the finished product, but I praised the effort she put in and the way she was concentrating so hard when she found it tough.

"She handed back the the puzzle and I asked if she wanted it easier or harder. She said “I’d like it the same please, Uncle Dan. Not too hard, but not too easy!”.

"I took the puzzle, shuffled it and handed it back. As she was working it out, I talked about learning and how fun it was to challenge ourselves and keep trying.

"She completed it again and handed it back, forgetting to celebrate the fact she had finished it. “Uncle Dan, I want you to shuffle it. But I want it really hard! The hardest you can do!”.

"I handed it back and she took a long time to work it out. Sure, we celebrated when she had finally finished it - but instead of dwelling on the victory, we spoke about the journey, what she had learnt and how she felt when things got tough.

"This is one tiny example I know, and yes, things don’t always go to plan during a PE lesson or sports club - but what if we could change the focus once in a while to talk about effort rather than the outcome?

"Imagine if the reward aligned with how much you learnt rather than how many answers you got right?"

There are many more benefits to the idea of celebrating effort - all of which we’d love to discuss if anyone has any thoughts via

Thanks for reading - hopefully you enjoyed that little food for thought via one of our inspirations at Future Stars, Carol Dweck.

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