When fear fails to motivate


It’s becoming increasingly clear that the ways in which teachers communicate with young learners can have a significant impact on academic outcomes. For some years now, studies have supported the assertions made by Carol Dweck that the way in which we praise young learners dictates (or at least influences) the mindset those young learners later adopt – effort praise encourages a growth mindset while ability praise is more likely to result in a fixed mindset (see, for example, Lam, Yim and Ng, 2008; Halmovitz and Henderlong Corpus, 2011).


Recent research has also suggested that certain motivational strategies may be backfiring due to the manner in which such strategies are communicated. David Putwain (Edge Hill) and Richard Remedios (Durham) have discovered that so-called ‘fear appeals’ might be having the opposite effect on motivation than the one intended. Fear appeals are messages that in some way elicit fear in the student…

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