The power of ‘Not Yet’

Singapore, Australia, Shanghai, Korea, Finland and Ontario – What do top performing education systems all have in common?  One thing really stands out. One thing which would be easily transplanted, at almost no cost. It is the power of ‘Not Yet’ as Carole Dweck calls it… a pervasive belief that failure is not permanent and that success comes with effort.

In her ground breaking research she finds that young people respond to failure in two ways:

  • some become demoralised, give up, shift blame, cheat, or worse
  • others learn from their mistake, redouble their efforts and make progress

It shows in their brain scans:


source: Moser et al. (2011: 1487)

But can we cultivate a growth mindset? YES. A large number of studies have now shown the positive impact of:

  • Process Praise:  praising effort, diligence and similar qualities and skills (not actual results)
  • Use the word “yet”
  • Teach ‘brainology’ – an understanding of how neurological networks grow and respond to experiences, stressors and growth mindsets. Redefine ‘effort’ and ‘difficulty’.

Fascinatingly, Dweck found a growth mindset enabled impoverished pupils to overcome disadvantage with highly unexpected results.

Her talk is an exceptionally good use of 10 minutes.



Jason S. Moser, Hans S. Schroder, Carrie Heeter, Tim P. Moran and Yu-Hao Lee (2011). Mind Your Errors : Evidence for a Neural Mechanism Linking Growth Mind-Set to Adaptive Posterror Adjustments. Psychological Science 2011 22: 1484


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