The Power of Yet – Intelligence can grow


Is Intelligence fixed, or can it grow?

Instead of giving students a Fail grade, Dr Carol Dweck suggests we should give them the grade Not Yet. This means students can have hope that they travelling on a road and getting smarter as they move along that road.This avoids the condemnation that failing an assessment can cause. The  poor scores of struggling students can cause devastation to their self esteem. Some of these students perceive themselves as having limited intelligence and believe they will always have low intelligence. They would not consider that perhaps they are slower maturing cognitively, perhaps they don’t get on with the teacher, perhaps they lack motivation. There are a multitude of reasons that may explain poor performance. Intelligence is but one.


Dweck describes a continuum of what she calls “mind-sets”. People with a fixed mindset, don’t believe they can improve. They see intelligence as set at birth and immutable. They run from challenges and don’t believe that increased effort will make any difference to their scores.They look for people who did worse so that they feel better.

On the other end of this continuum are people with a growth mindset.  These people believe their intelligence can keep improving throughout life, as research into brain plasticity reveals. People with a growth mindset are prepared to put high levels of effort into their studies. They love a challenge and have high levels of persistence.


Neuroscience reveals that, with repetition, a superhighway of neurons forms in the brain. This happens when we learn our multiplication tables for example, or other languages. A network of brain cells fires together to lead the student to the correct answer with little effort and saves time when completing assessments. This leaves more time to answer other questions. Rehersal involving multiple senses can help embed those neurons too.