This last year I was introduced to entity and incremental theories of intelligence. In one, the student says, “I am good at this.” (Or bad at it.) In the other the student says, “I worked hard at this and I got it.” (Or didn’t work hard enough and didn’t get it.)
While it is true that some things a student may never get (I, for one, have never gotten geometry.), most things the student can get if they will keep trying.
According to research incremental theorists are more likely to succeed across diverse fields. Someone who is “good at math” may not use the same skills that make them good at math in English because they don’t realize those skills transfer.
The researcher I read said that process-oriented feedback from the teacher can help our students realize that they have incremental intelligence. “Good job! You are becoming a better writer. Keep up the good work.” Or “Study a little harder for the next test. Ask any questions you need to during our review.”
This difference made sense to me. I’ve decided to try it out. This is the first semester I have tried doing incremental encouragement, so I do not know how well it will work. But I think it would have helped me as a student.
Entity: I am good at this
Incremental: I can do this if I try
How to encourage students: process-oriented feedback
“Good job! You are really becoming a _____. Keep up the good work.”
“Study a little harder for the next one and you’ll do well. Ask any questions you need to.”