Mindset: Beyond the Power of ‘Yet’

With growth mindset recently reported to be part of an effective strategy that can buffer against academic stress faced during the COVID-19 pandemic (Mosanya, 2021), we felt that it was time to re-visit this popular concept and peel back the curtain to look beyond the catch phrase of ‘yet’.

Educators who have been interested in Positive Education for any length of time will have heard the term ‘Growth Mindset’; however, ongoing research has shown that the impact of this concept in classrooms has fallen somewhat short of its projected potential.

So, what is this concept and how can we apply it to our teaching and learning in a proactive manner that will result in positive outcomes?

What is a growth mindset and why is it important for learning?

  • A growth mindset involves the belief that abilities can be cultivated through sustained effort and practice.
  • A fixed mindset involves the belief that we are born with certain talents and abilities, and that these cannot be changed.
  • People can have different mindsets in different areas.
  • Mindsets are an important part of who we are; however, they can also be changed.
  • Stereotyping can contribute to fixed mindsets, such as the belief that certain races, cultures or genders are better or worse at certain tasks or subjects.

Having a growth mindset helps us to learn as we are likely to:

  • embrace challenges more readily,
  • set more challenging goals for ourselves,
  • persevere with challenging tasks,
  • ask for help and advice,
  • act on feedback that’s given, and
  • attribute success or failure to our level of effort.

Three tips teachers can use tomorrow to promote a growth mindset

  1. Teach students about mindsets
    Learning about the concept of growth and fixed mindsets can be a powerful catalyst for change. By teaching our students that they can all improve their results through effortful practice and helpful strategies, and explaining how their brains can grow and change, we are setting them up for good growth-minded progress.

    Teaching students that the brain is like a muscle – that it can change and become stronger the more we use it – is a powerful strategy for students’ success. If they understand that their brain can be ‘trained’ to learn new things by using a variety of strategies, then this is a significant step to embracing the ability to improve outcomes. Explaining that our brain creates neural pathways that can be strengthened through repetition and practice can also encourage students to see the value in sustained effort.

    Some teachers explain the power of ‘yet’, the positive self-messaging used to explain that just because we can’t do something now, it doesn’t mean that we won’t be able to do it in the future. However, there is scope for powerfully expanding this by teaching our students how their brains work, how they learn and how their abilities can be developed.

  2. Praise the process

    Many people view their abilities as a fixed or heritable trait that cannot be changed. However, the way we praise our students’ efforts can have a powerful impact on this mindset.

    Research has shown that if we praise students for their abilities, it can support a belief that this is an innate quality, encouraging the development of a fixed mindset, e.g. ‘You got 10 right – that’s a great score. You are really smart.’ Whereas, if we praise the process of students’ learning, we are acknowledging that progress takes effort, encouraging a growth mindset, e.g. ‘You got 10 right – that’s a great score. The effort you put into revising and your strategy of asking for help really paid off.’

    Praising students’ intelligence can be detrimental to their motivation and performance. However, praising students for their efforts and for what they have accomplished through study, practice, grit and helpful strategies can help them achieve greater outcomes through a growth mindset.

  3. Encourage pathways for success

    We all face failures in life – this is a natural part of the human experience. However, how we act and react in response to this situation is crucial. By withholding constructive criticism, we aren’t helping our students; instead, we are harming their future.

    Helping students reflect on their performance and forge a new way forward can help them to make positive progress. This can look like reviewing a football game as a team and giving helpful (process-based) tips; discussing the strategies a student used when approaching an assignment or providing a variety of ways to demonstrate a solution to a maths problem.

    Teachers with a growth-minded approach don’t shy away from telling their students the truth about their results; however, they also provide them with the tools they need to succeed. Great teachers set high standards for all their students and then help them to find the strategies that work for them so they can achieve success.

What having a growth mindset looks like

A growth mindset looks like:

  • working hard to become your best,
  • seeing setbacks as informative and motivating,
  • finding a process that will bring you success and sticking to it,
  • embracing challenges,
  • viewing effort as a pathway to mastery, and
  • learning from feedback and constructive criticism.

Questions teachers can use with students

  • “What mistake did you make today and what did you learn from this?”
  • “How can challenging yourself and working to learn difficult things improve your abilities?”
  • “I like the outline for your project – it looks really challenging. What are you hoping to learn by completing this task?”
  • “What did you try really hard at today? How is this helping your brain to develop and change?”
  • “Your test results have really improved – what new strategies did you try?”

Dweck’s initial studies were very promising (Blackwell et. al, 2007), and the field of education ran with these findings, seeking to teach these principles to students with enthusiasm. However, with some replicated studies finding small but positive outcomes and others finding no impact at all on student results, it has become evident that the context in which these lessons are taught is of utmost importance (Dweck & Yeager, 2019).

Research has shown that even just teaching the concept of growth mindset over two 25-minute lessons can have a small but measurable impact. However, it’s vital that the classroom environment also supports students’ efforts to try new strategies, seek help and feedback, and learn from failure.

By teaching these concepts to students and then embedding these principles within our classroom culture and pedagogy, we can create an environment that best sets our students up for growth and success.

Aimee Bloom
is the Product Manager at the Institute of Positive Education. She is responsible for crafting the Institute's Positive Education Enhanced Curriculum
(PEEC) from ELC – 12. An experienced teacher and writer since 2005, Aimee has taught in both primary and secondary contexts, and has written content for a variety of government and non-government agencies. She is passionate about supporting teachers and ensuring the wellbeing of children, both in our schools and around the globe.


To learn more about this concept and help embed it in your classroom, download our Growth Mindset Praise Prompts and Posters and view this free sample lesson from our Positive Education Enhanced Curriculum (PEEC).


Blackwell, L. S., Trzesniewski, K. H. & Dweck, C. S. (2007). Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across an adolescent transition: a longitudinal study and an intervention. Child Development, 78, 246–263.

Dweck, C. (2008) Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Ballentine Books.

Dweck, C. & Yeager, D. (2019). Mindsets: A View From Two Eras. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 14(3).

Mosanya, M. (2021). Buffering Academic Stress during the COVID-19 Pandemic Related Social Isolation: Grit and Growth Mindset as Protective Factors against the Impact of Loneliness. International Journal of Applied Positive Psychology, 6, 159–174.

PISA (2021). Can a growth mindset help disadvantaged students close the gap? OECD.

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