Growth Mindset: Stories & Science - Part 3

Most people in schools or in coaching are probably now familiar with Carol Dweck's Growth Mindset theory. The theory encourages people to view talent/intelligence as something that can be improved. The consequence of this is that they will persist for longer, cope better with setbacks and seek out higher quality feedback.

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We believe that teaching stories of others who have demonstrated these qualities is a good way to capture young people's attention. If this is backed up with psychological research, then this can be a powerful combination.


Story #1 - Jessica Ennis-Hill

Olympic and world champion Jessica Ennis-Hill is a lot smaller than most of her rivals. Her coach, Toni Minichiello said many people said she was too small to be world class. He says, "What they couldn't see was the work ethic or the competitive nature of the individual ... that ability to not give up and keep improving."


Story #2 - JK Rowling

Did you know that the first Harry Potter book, The Philisopher’s Stone, was rejected by 12 publishers before it was accepted? It went on to to sell 400 million copies. How did author JK Rowling deal with the setbacks? She says, “We just shoot for writing better than yesterday.”

You can see JK Rowling talk more about what she learnt from her failures here:


Science Research #1 - Growth Mindset + Sense of Purpose

growth mindset stories and science: jessica ennis-hill, jk rowling infographic

A recent study showed that combining growth mindset and sense of purpose interventions (i.e. highlighting how doing well at school can help you achieve their future goals) can help students improve their grades.

This research is especially interesting as (a) it is suggested that it could be most beneficial for students at risk of dropping out of school and (b) it could be scalable across a whole school.

It is also interesting to consider that growth mindset interventions by themselves are not a magic bullet. There is no quick fix or one solution to all the challenges young people face. This research combined growth mindset and a sense of purpose, which begs the question: What else can we combine growth mindset interventions with? Self-regulation? Meta-cognition? It is still early days in terms of working out what works best, but this line of research is certainly very promising.

Science Research #2 - Seeking Out Good


In one of Carol Dweck’s most famous studies, students were either praised for effort or ability. Those who had been praised for ability were more likely to ask for feedback on how they did at a task in order to compare themselves to the others. Those who had been praised for effort wanted feedback on how they could get better.

This has clear implications in both school and sport. If we could help students compare themselves less to others and more on their own personal development, not only should this help them feel better (by reducing their fear of failure), but could also aid their learning and development.

For more information about how to help someone develop a growth mindset, read our blog, aptly titled, 'How Do You Actually Help Someone Develop a Growth Mindset' 

For even more info take a look at our page How to Develop a Growth Mindset, where you'll find links to blogs and research.


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Read the other parts: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

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