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Growth Mindsets

One of the key elements in the International Primary Curriculum and the International Middle Years Curriculum is based on the concept of the Growth Mindset.

The concept of ‘fixed’ and ‘growth’ mindsets stems from the research carried out by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck. One of her best-known studies involved splitting children into two groups and giving them an identical test, at which most would succeed. One group were told they had done really well because they tried really hard. The other group were told they had done really well because they were smart. They were then told they were going to have another test, but could choose from a simple one or a harder one from which they might learn more. The group who were praised for their effort nearly all wanted to try the harder test. In the group that were praised for their intelligence, nearly 80% opted for the easier test. Dweck’s research highlights the difference between what she calls a ‘fixed’ mindset (performance orientated, likely to give up easily and not fulfil their potential) versus a ‘growth’ mindset (learning orientated, believes intelligence can be developed and embraces challenges).

The message is clear – praise process and not ability. In an article ‘You Can Grow Your Intelligence’ (2008) Dweck talks about the brain being more like a muscle which changes and gets stronger the more you use it – something which is underpinned by scientific research. She explains how neurons in the brain are connected to other cells in the network and it is the communication between these brain cells which allows people to think and solve problems. Neurons are hard-wired to make connections with each other and when we learn things these connections multiply and get stronger.

As you learn, your brain is looking for connections between your current and previous learning. This is why the Knowledge Harvest is such an important part of any IPC unit – it helps children make connections between what they already know and what they are going to learn.

In the video below, Mrs Tarzi and Mr Bailey introduce the concept of the Growth Mindset to our Year 5 class.



  • Seven Myths About Education, Daisy Christodoulou, Routledge, 2014

  • Outstanding Formative Assessment, Shirley Clarke, Hodder Education, 2014

  • Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind, Guy Claxton, Fourth Estate, 1998

  • Flow: The Psychology of Happiness: The Classic Work on How to Achieve Happiness, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Rider, 2002

  • How We Think, John Dewey, Martino Fine Books, 2011

  • Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential, Carol Dweck, Robinson, 2012

  • Emotional Intelligence – Why It Matters More Than IQ, Daniel J. Goleman, Bloomsbury, 1996

  • Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement, John Hattie, Routledge, 2008

  • Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners, Ritchart, Church and Morrison, Jossey Bass, 2011

  • Why Don’t Students Like School?, Daniel T. Willingham, Jossey Bass, 2009


  • You Can Grow Your Intelligence, Carol Dweck, 2009. (Available to download from

  • Sleep ‘cleans’ the brain of toxins, James Gallagher, 2013. (Available to download from

  • Informing Pedagogy Through Brain-Targeted Teaching, Mariale Hardiman, 2012. (Available to download from

  • Exercise Affects the Brain, Petra Rattue, 2012. (Available to download from

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