Carol Dweck

Today I am at Teaching for Intelligent Mindsets where we will hear from Carol Dweck, Guy Claxton and Jamie Fitzgerald. I will try to post blogs about each session so my next few posts will be far more bullet points rather than a flowing post of any sort (if any of my rambles ever achieve a flow!?).

This post is my notes from Carol Dweck’s talk on Growth Mindsets:

You don’t see unmotivated babies just people with curiosity and gusto.

When we put too much emphasis on giftedness and talent we create kids who feel they have to be infallible. Infallible is the enemy of learning.

Mindsets matter:

Fixed Mindset = Intelligence is a fixed trait. Turns people into non-learners, not worth putting the effort in.

Growth Mindset = Intelligence can be developed. Doesn’t mean that everyone has same initial talent but you believe that everyone can get smarter.

Cognitive Scientists are isolating the parts of the brain and working out they work .

Alfred Binet made IQ tests to identify who wasn’t progessing under teaching methods, not so it could be used to show fixed intelligence. He hated the way the IQ tests came to be used.

Mindsets can be applied differently in different areas. People can have growth mindsets in one area while having fixed in another: Sports vs classrooms, Maths vs other subjects.

Mindset Rule 1

Fixed: Look smart at all costs. Growth: Learn at all costs

Mindset Rule 2

Fixed: It should come naturally. Growth: Hard work is key

Mindset Rule 3

Fixed: hide mistakes and deficiencies Growth: Confront mistakes and deficiencies

Brain processing as students make mistakes from Moser et al 2011 article.


Messages about what we value 

Intelligence praise vs Process praise. Praising strategies, choosing right time to ask for help etc will develop more of a hunger for difficult tasks and ability to stick at those difficult tasks – i.e. a Growth Mindset. Have seen this in research undertaken on babies at 1,2,3,4 and 5. At 7 all of those who had more process praise had higher achievement levels.

What to praise:

  • Struggle
  • strategies, choices
  • choosing difficult tasks, using mistakes
  • learning improving

Growth mindset praise is not just about getting them to try hard – that’s called nagging. Grit, resilience, etc are a byproduct of Growth Mindset, not the key to achieving it.


I’m not a Maths person. School changed fail grades to be “not Yet” soon students were asking each other how many “not yets” they had. Changed whole school mindset in a simple step.

For more on Not Yet see Carol’s great TED talk here.

Is it ever too late? No! Have seen changes in High School, Community Colleges, University and even in Elderly.

Big fear of Growth Mindsets is that if it becomes mainstream, everyone will just think they have it. Everyone has parts of it. We need to normalise this view: I have growth mindset at times but need to keep working on it.

Mindsets and Teachers

Fixed mindsets leaves it all up to the student. Growth Mindsets means that teachers and students need to work together closely.

As teachers we REALLY also need a Growth Mindset about ourselves. It is why we lose so many teachers from profession early on. Need to acknowledge our beginning years are when we are the worst teachers we will ever be! It’s a lifetime of acquiring new skills and getting better.

Can an organisation have a mindset? Yes!

What does your organisation value? Talents, ability to develop etc. In Growth Mindset organisations staff feel empowered and have more creativity and organisation going on. Could take risks and get back up again if it doesn’t work. Fixed Mindset organisations had competition between staff, lots of talk about risk but you felt it if it didn’t come off.

What about formal assessment impacts on mindsets?

Great question from Claire Amos! Have to remember purpose of assessment – that some schools weren’t helping students. Unfortunately, that purpose has ended up causing focus on assessment and reduced the focus on good learning. Need to get back to having assessment as byproduct of the learning. Have to get students realising that tests show a snapshot of that day not how smart they are. Also need teachers to not be measured by results on test so they have leeway to try to improve their practice.

What about laughing at Fail videos?

Carol sees these as a great learning tool. Imagine having lessons where you show fail videos and then interview people about what they learned from it? Might have to adapt this as a Learning Hub activity!


7 thoughts on “Carol Dweck

  1. Good little summary of the morning. I would love to chat with you further about the “I’m not a maths person” scenario, think we could raise some great questions & issues on this. I recommend you take a look at Jon Ronson’s book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed It has an interesting commentary on the role of social media in society today and the affect it has on an individual. Part of his conclusion is based on an individual’s attitude to embarrassment and shame, this I believe is analogous to the growth mindset.

  2. Pingback: The Growth Mindset | learning moves

  3. Pingback: A chance to explore my own growth mindset – e-Odyssey

  4. Great post (as usual), Steve!! I really love your last paragraph, and plan to implement this into my Practical Science course as soon as possible. How much laughter and fun might that invoke in my laboratory…?

  5. Pingback: Growth Mindset Activities for Students | Steve Mouldey

  6. Pingback: Growth Mindset Activities for Students | Teachers Blog

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