Psychologist Carol Dweck has conducted extensive research into the influence of two models of thinking: a “fixed mind-set” and a “growth mind-set”. Individuals with a fixed mind-set believe that abilities, talents, and intelligence are innate and unchanging. In comparison, individuals with a growth mind-set believe that intelligence and abilities can develop throughout life. This doesn’t mean that everyone is the same, but rather that with effort and experience, everyone can grow.
Dweck’s research has shown that praising ability can undermine motivation and learning because it reinforces a fixed mind-set of intelligence. Instead, teachers should praise processes such as effort, strategy, perseverance, or improvement.
See Carol Dweck: The Effect of Praise on Mindsets to see how praise can influence the way children respond to challenging problems.