CPD Briefing: Growth Mindsets

It is fascinating that often those who start with talent (but have a fixed mindset) will plateau whilst others go past them. My daughter who had great early success as an artist has struggled with this and has largely refused to take on new techniques or materials as she is less successful with these and therefore feels like a failure.


I find it terrifying the influence of my praise on this situation and wonder to what extent I have caused this problem.

Very gifted people, they win and they win, and they are told that they win because they are a winner. That seems like a positive thing to tell children, but ultimately, what that means is when they lose, it must make them a loser.
Joshua Waitzkin

Some thoughts instead:


  • Notice students’ good efforts and strategies and praise them.
  • Be specific about the praised behaviors and reinforce this behavior with your feedback.
  • Use praise to link the outcomes of an assignment to students’ efforts.
  • Talk explicitly and in detail about the strategies a student has used. Comment on which strategies were helpful, and which were not.
  • Ask a student to explain his or her work to you.
  • Don’t offer praise for trivial accomplishments or weak efforts.
  • Don’t let a student feel ashamed of learning difficulties. Instead, treat each challenge as an opportunity for learning.
  • Don’t ever say, “You are so smart.” in response to good work. Instead, praise the work a student has done, (e.g., “Your argument is very clear;” or “Your homework is very accurate.”)

CPD Briefing: Stretch and Challenge


We all know that we need to be stretching students whatever their starting points, we know that we have to challenge every child in a class. This however has to be achieved without increasing work load or work sheets.



Pygmalion in the Classroom (Pygmalion in the Classroom Rosenthal, R.; Jacobson, L. (1968)


I have spoken about this before – the bottom line of the research was that teachers expectations were the key factor in students performance.

The researchers randomly allocated students to a group using a fake test they then labelled these children as high ability’ bloomers’ . All of the students received the same teaching and yet the bloomers made significantly more progress.

The research looked into possible reasons why but came to the conclusion that it was the interactions between the teacher and pupils.

The teacher believed they had potential —> The pupil believed the had potential —> The pupil made progress…

Recent work by Carol Dweck on Growth Mindsets supports such conclusions with an emphasis on providing high challenge and positive, specific feedback.

In June 2013 research by Ofsted The Most Able Students painted a fairly damming picture of current practice. Some of their recommendations are below.

  • develop a culture and ethos so that the needs of the most able students are championed by school leaders
  • help the most able students to flourish and leave school with the best qualifications by providing first-rate opportunities to develop the skills, confidence and attitudes needed to succeed at the best universities
  • improve the transfer between primary and secondary schools so that all Year 7 teachers know which students achieved highly, know what aspects of the curriculum the most able students have studied in Year 6, and use this information to plan and teach lessons that build on prior knowledge and skills
  • ensure that work continues to be challenging and demanding throughout Key Stage 3 so that the most able students make rapid progress
  • evaluate the quality of homework set for the most able students to ensure that it is suitably challenging
  • give the parents and carers of the most able students better and more frequent information about what their children should achieve and raise their expectations

Prompts for Questions

  • Do all students on our classes make good or better progress?
  • Do we meet the needs of every student?
  • How do we cater for high ability EAL students?
  • How do low expectations affect progress? (the Golem affect)

Further Reading

Golem and Pygmalion

Golem affect

Growth Mindsets Video




Stretch and Challenge without Handouts