2013 Age 11-18: Secondary (6-12 Grade US) Feedback from Day 2

Kettle Moraine, Wisconsin

Middle school

Teachers had used vocabulary related to behaviours for success to encourage risk taking and being happy with mistakes. This caused a transformation as they knew they could make mistakes without judgement. Students will now explain how they came to an answer and often find their own errors in the process.

Groups are also being asked to fix errors rather than telling each other correct answers. Students are participating in discussions more readily and students who get wrong answers are now asking more questions.

Some teachers compared the fixed mindset to the lowest level critical thinking and the growth mindset to the highest level. Children brainstormed a list of why the fixed mindset creates the lowest level and the growth the reverse. This is being used by pupils to excel and achieve more.

Some teachers had introduced talk partners, ‘in and out’ teaching and teacher as facilitator. Students are having discussions about math with little adult assistance. They are making positive choices of talk partners rather than choosing friends (usually random pairings). Students are now more comfortable sharing with others and getting along with new people and are collaborating more easily.

Mindsets are analysed in characters in literary works and students call out when the characters use words which show a particular mindset.

High School

Students were given a hand-out showing the characteristics of the two mindsets and were asked to identify where they currently stand. They also completed a questionnaire. Students were excited about embracing the challenge although most of them remained fixed. Most students were uncomfortable with the change in the classroom structure.

Students were also given the brain research to read. Change was noted when there was individual pushing in a one to one setting.

Teachers had focused on ‘I don’t know it YET’ which had led to students encouraging each other to practice and face challenges, although this was more so with younger students.

Some teachers felt that in theory students all want a growth mindset but reality reflects a fixed mindset as they conform to a fixed structure and reject opportunities for growth.

Kentucky (math focus only)

Middle school

Teachers had tried the order of smartness activity, which had allowed students to discuss openly and realise that they all think differently, but are not incorrect. Everyone had an opinion and the students were really engaged.

Some teachers had shown students a video clip on YouTube: ‘Why you need to fail’ by Derek Sivers in which a quiz is given. The lower achievers were most fixed and those above average were most growth. Students were able to reflect and one student really wanted to change his attitude.

The students also watch a video about mindsets. Most saw themselves as one or the other more discussion followed.

The taxi drivers video clip was used to illustrate how the brain grows:


I talked about and read to the students about the taxi drivers, the rats and babies learning and how you can grow your brain. A few days later we were in groups working on some more difficult problems. A girl grabbed her head and said ‘This makes my head hurt.’ A boy in her group punched her arm and said ‘You’re growing brain cells!’

Elizabeth Hubbard, Clay County Middle School, Manchester, Kentucky

In another school the taxi drivers video dumbfounded an algebra group, who were very interested in expanding their minds.

The Dweck article ‘You can grow your intelligence’ was given to one class which led to eyes lighting up and increased effort:

Anecdote (14 year olds)

We read the article. As I was introducing the article being about having a growth mindset, I said some people think people are either born smart or not. One student, who is labelled ‘smart’ by his peers, said ‘I know. You are all thinking of me.’ Several children rolled their eyes.  As we read through the article one student on the brink of failure just lit up. He was very interested in this concept. With the little time we had left in the school year he worked harder in class and passed.

Regan Kinney, East Carter Middle School, Kentucky

High School

Students discussed the growth mindset. One student said ‘This makes my brain hurt.’

Teachers had changed their praise language. This had challenged students to think about what they had done to prepare for tests – would they rely on luck or effort and preparation? Students had improved their test scores, were more focused and had proved that hard work pays off.  At the beginning, students were not happy with the idea of learning more. Students said they had a growth mindset even though they didn’t like doing math. A discussion followed in which they realised that you can’t have a growth mindset if you give up certain content areas.

Random growth mindset quotes were used:


After introducing the growth mindset over several activities (Fixed vs growth statement cards to sort, ordering people for smartness etc.) I was concerned about how to continuously incorporate the growth mindset in a content based class without having mini lessons daily. Each week I displayed a growth mindset quote from www.practialsavvy.com:

E.g. ‘Great works are performed, not by strength, but by perseverance’ Samuel Johnson

and asked them to discuss why the quote exhibited a growth mindset. At first there was minimal discussion so I underlined some key words then brought them altogether for a whole class discussion. As the math lesson started and students were expected to be doing the practice, if any student wasn’t working I would engage them in a conversation and refer to the quote to persuade them to make attempts. Students actually reminded me if I forgot to change the quote and looked forward to the new quote. They began to ask if they could get out cell phones and put quotes on social media.

Holly Medley, Washington County High School, Kentucky

One teacher had introduced the 8 learning powers and asked students to assign their own characters to fit the powers. Most were Disney characters, which they justified. The students believed that children had a greater growth mindset than adults and discussed why they thought the growth mindset appeared to stop. Most high school students have decided that they are ‘stupid’ at something.


I gave the students a copy of the Successful Learning sheet with the 8 learning powers. We discussed each and how they relate to learning. Students nominated characters to represent each. We then had an election to choose the representative for each. Next, we chose one power to focus on for the remainder of the year. Because of our continuing work with talk partners, we chose to focus on being cooperative.

Each time students work with partners, in groups or sharing of any kind, I reminded them of the success criteria for being cooperative. I would hear them sometimes reminding each other when necessary. I noticed students made progress in the area of communicating with their partners. They also got better at explaining to one another, using vocabulary and diagrams etc. Many students who did not normally speak were much more comfortable talking to a partner. Some were more confident in their explanations and ability.

Rita Messer, Washington County High School, Kentucky

Some teachers had shown students an interview between Michael Jordan and Sully. Other videos used: ‘Why you need to fail’, PBS Baby’s Brain, Taxi cab drivers, Will Smith, famous failures.

As a result, students used growth/fixed vocabulary to encourage each other. There were changes in efficacy about their ability to pass the AP exam, there was an improved pass rate for the AP exam and there was more discussion about the possibility of new connections in the brain.

The ordering famous people for smartness task led to advanced students asking for the right answer! There was a good discussion about different intelligences. One student said ‘I have a fixed mindset for things I don’t like and a growth mindset for things I like.’

Kentucky (all subjects)

Middle school

One teacher found that she had more fixed than growth mindsets in her ‘honors’ class.

Teachers had shown students the taxi drivers’ brains clips which they thought was cool. They did not realise that their brain could grow and change. One teacher says ‘remember the taxi drivers’ if she hears a student say ‘I don’t get it.’ One student said ‘Are you serious? They have to memorise all of that stuff? I can’t remember my vocabulary’ (Spanish). The students thought it was good that the taxi drivers had found worth in what they did and realised that they can find worth in what they are trying to do. They are now not as hesitant at trying more difficult tasks.

The ‘famous failures’ clip caused shock reactions and helped them see that failure is OK. Students said ‘If they can do it, then so can I.’

Some teachers had read through the Dweck article ‘You can grow your intelligence’ which had led to students putting more effort into their learning. They realised that just going for the easiest route was not challenging them, whereas if they completed the most difficult task they had also completed the others.

By using the phrase ‘I don’t know that yet’ they began to realise their potential.

The neurons clips helped students see that everyone’s brain works – they can learn regardless of past experiences.

Some teachers had used a bulletin board to display the learning powers and had talked about them with the students. In one class the students made posters which were displayed around the school.

One teacher put one poser a week on display on the door of her classroom and students use that power in class. They write examples of how they have used the power on post it notes and stick them on the poster. Getting students to learn this was ‘like teaching them a foreign language’ as they are learning to incorporate it into all their learning.

High School

One teacher had a poster in her room which read ‘If London Taxi Drivers can learn 25,000 roads, you can learn:…’

Lower achievers liked having praise which focused on effort and achievement, but higher achievers were only interested in the grade.

Students saw the importance of fixed and growth mindsets after watching ‘famous failures’ and a clip from ‘The Pursuit of Happiness’.  Another teacher showed students a clip of Will Smith and his son playing basketball to discuss the idea of ‘can’t do’.  Students say ‘Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something.’  Students now have the idea that their brains can grow like a seed.

The taxi drivers’ brains clip fascinated students, making them realise that the brain can grow.  It is now a running theme in lessons that their brains hurt (from growing).

One teacher put a list of famous celebrities up and let children’s curiosity build. This led to a successful discussion about the different types of intelligence.

‘I don’t know YET’ had helped students to see that not knowing is not the end but the beginning.  One teacher said she no longer has students who say ‘I can’t.’

One teacher of 17 year olds played the students Michael Buble’s ‘I haven’t even met you yet’, asking them to write what they thought ‘yet’ meant in the song.  One student said ‘I may not be there yet but I’m closer than I was yesterday.’ Students introduced to the mindsets are now using the language of mindsets.

Learning powers were not displayed but were referenced as needed, with each one taken in turn. Some teachers were displaying them, however. Two teachers placed a different power on a board each day which said ‘I will learn to…’

Kettle Moraine School District, Wisconsin, USA

Patricia Deklotz | deklotsp@kmsd.edu

Kentucky, USA

Kim Zeidler | kim.zeidler@uky.edu

Tunbridge Wells, Kent, UK

Mel Shackleton | headteacher@st-james-infant.kent.sch.uk