The Challenge Learning Hub page and resources are managed by Hub Leader, Amanda Telfer

Hub members:

  • ATE (Hub Leader, ICT)
  • AWO (Maths)
  • ACO (English)
  • MIC (Science)
  • CJO (Humanities)
  • AJS (PE)
  • JRI (ILC)
  • SMC (ILC)
  • HLA (ICT)
  • SLA (SSM)


  • To embed a culture of ‘growth mindset’ across our learning community in order to raise aspirations and expectations of what students can achieve.
  • To ensure high levels of challenge for all students in every lesson, every day.

Initial research

Initial research involved looking at a range of reading material including books, online blogs and articles


  • Mindset: How you can fulfil your full potential by Carol Dweck
  • An Ethic of Excellence: Building a Culture of Craftsmanship with Students by Ron Berger



Before beginning any real reading or research into different areas of challenge I thought about how I incorporated challenge in my own lessons. I then had informal conversations with colleagues about what they do. It became apparent that although a range of techniques were used to try and challenge all students, not all students were open to challenging themselves and attempting difficult tasks. This then forced me to ask the question:


 Growth mindset – What is it?

Growth mindset is the idea of Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University. Dweck has dedicated years of research to mindsets and their effects. Growth mindset can be summed up as the belief that intelligence can be grown and developed as opposed to a fixed mindset which believes that intelligence is static and cannot be grown. According to Dweck, a growth mindset believes that everyone can change and grow through application and experience.

growth mindset

To measure mindset Dweck designed a short questionnaire, however it is not as simple as to label a person as having a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. There is a scale which people will fall somewhere on. Dweck believes a person’s views directly impacts on the way they lead their life and the success they achieve.

Fixed vs. growth mindset traits from Dweck

There are number of traits and characteristics associated with a growth mindset. People with a growth mindset enjoy challenge and learn from failure.   They are resilient and hard working and do not give up easily.

Those with a fixed mindset often have negative attitude towards real challenge and failure. They tend to employ coping strategies to help them deal with failure that see them giving up easily or ignoring the situation. A person with a fixed mindset will often choose the option which they believe will give guaranteed success.

fixed v growth traits

Growth mindset in an education setting

Looking more specifically at how a growth mind-set can benefit students in terms of their achievement Dweck carried out a study with Blackwell and Trzesniewski that tracked students progress in Maths over an academic year. The results show those with a growth mindset improved their grades and made better progress than those with a fixed mindset.

Dweck Blackwell Trzesniewski

Many schools in the UK have started to foster a growth mindset approach to education with varying degrees of success. Schools that have successfully created a culture of growth mindset have seen an improvement in overall results (and many other benefits.) New Heys School in Liverpool were a school faced with closure in 2010. The school changed their practice and adopted growth mindset approaches. Results also improved significantly.

Ashley Loynton, a science teacher at New Heys, trialled growth mindset approaches with a small number of year 11 boys in his Additional Science class. He wanted to challenge the boys and encourage them to set their sights beyond a C grade. Although Loynton did see an increase in higher grades he was keen to stress that this was not solely due to the growth mindset techniques he employed and that the exercise would no doubt be rewarding for the boys in other ways.

Advice from successful schools

In order to successfully adopt a growth mindset approach both staff and students must be fully involved. The engagement of parents and the wider community is also key to fostering a growth mindset culture in school. Moving towards a growth mindset is not a quick fix but something that must be strategically planned for and developed over time. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach, techniques adopted by some schools may not necessarily work for our own. There is a need for a tailored approach to developing growth mindset.

Challenge beliefs

  • Teacher beliefs – fixed or growth?
  • Student beliefs?

Make a wish list

  • What do we want our students to become?
  • Habits of mind

Create a culture

  • Journey, ups and downs
  • Trying new things, risk taking


  • Challenge, effort, deliberate practice
  • Engage parents as co-mindsetters / community

Taken from Huntington school

Techniques used

Looking at the work of Huntington school, who are now two years into their work on growth mindset, they have made the development of growth mindset a whole school priority. They also have a junior leadership team dedicated to it. Their first step in implementing growth mindset was to train staff and introduce growth mindset. John Tomsett, Headteacher at Huntington, reinforces the importance of convincing staff that intelligence is not fixed and the efficacy of growth mindset (using science and data). When you have achieved this it is then key to convince the students! Tomsett also advises to keep it simple and have a termly focus – it needs to be tangible for staff with low cost and high impact.

  • Staff/student/parent questionnaires to measure growth mindset
  • Educating students, staff and parents about growth mindset
  • The use of process praise
  • The power of ‘yet’ – the use of language in the classroom
  • Redrafting techniques and use of feedback
  • Encouraging failure
  • Self-reflection learning journals
  • Continuous high expectations of students


The right kind of praise is key to developing a ‘growth mindset’. Dweck states:

“Praising students’ intelligence gives them a short burst of pride, followed by a long string of negative consequences.”

A study by Mueller and Dweck showed the negative effects of intelligence praise. In the study students worked on a task, the teacher praised some for their intelligence and others for effort. They then assessed the students mindsets. Students praised for intelligence tended to agree more with fixed mindset statements than those who had effort praise. Other key findings from the study showed that when given a choice between an easy and a challenging task those students who were recipients of process praise opted for the challenging task whereas students who had been praised for intelligence opted for an easy task. This suggests that process praise fosters a growth mindset approach and intelligence praise is linked to a fixed mindset approach.


Learning Hub 1 Autumn Term

Hub 1 presentation is available to download below:

Challenge Hub 1 – 11th September 2014

Learning Hub 2 Autumn Term

Process Praise and Growth Mindset Language

Over the last half term the group have been trialling the use of Process Praise and Growth Mindset language. We displayed posters in classrooms and used Growth Mindset language displays in our teaching. This is what we found:

ACO- displayed growth mind-set poster on a PPT and discussed the meaning of this with a lower set just before an assessment. This worked well as it encouraged the students to keep trying even when they found it difficult. It worked well with some students however some still used negative language like “I can’t do this”

SMC – Laminated the Growth Mindset language posters and handed out to students to refer to when working on assessment. Worked well when used for redrafting assessments and improving work

AJS – Within lessons and for homework tasks the use of the phrase “I can’t” has been banned and students are encouraged to use alternatives e.g. “I cant do this YET”. This worked well when used alongside demonstrations of what “good” looks like. Process praise used lead to higher achievement and had a positive impact on students in particular those who lacked confidence in PE.

MIC – Alongside process praise dismissing the class in order of their effort levels was trialled. This gave an opportunity to praise students for effort at the end of the lesson so other students could see this. An increase in effort was seen and it also encouraged a positive climate for learning.

AWO – developed a set of bingo cards using Growth Mindset language to encourage students to recognise and use in lessons. It was originally trialled with a lower set, however it worked better with middle to higher sets. It was a good way of introducing the language and encouraging students to think in a Growth Mindset way

CJO – using the idea of growth mind-set language a starter/plenary activity was developed called plenary pyramid. This involved students completing a pyramid style template – 3 things they did well, 2 things they struggled with, 1 thing they want to improve and how to do it. This was referred back to at the start of the next lesson.

JRI – found the use of process praise very positive when developing listening and reading skills in German and French. The focus on praising effort when completing listening and reading tasks had a positive affect on achievement and student enjoyment.

Overall the use of process praise was a very positive experience and often resulted in increased effort in lessons. Displaying and using Growth Mindset language alternatives worked well with some students however there were still students who continued to use negative language.

Staff Mindset

Next we discussed the results of the staff mindset questionnaire. As a group of staff collectively we very much sit in the middle of the Growth Mindset scale, where a score of 1 indicates a Fixed Mindset up to a Growth Mindset of 6.

Staff mindset questionnaire results

We discussed ways of getting staff on board. People agreed that staff would be more open to the idea of Growth Mindset if they could see proof or results e.g. the science behind the idea and also other schools where a direct link can be made between results and Growth Mindset.

Student Mindset

The idea of tracking students using their growth mind-set score was explained. As a group we have agreed to identify a class each we would like to use.


Introducing Growth Mindset to students

The rest of the session was spent looking at ways of introducing Growth Mindset to our students. A range of activities and initiatives were suggested. This included using tutor time to complete activities or learning journals on a half termly basis. We discussed the possibility of using a Challenge Day or a block of time at the end of the summer term. Schools such as Cramlington Learning Village hold a ‘Project Fortnight’ which involves small groups of students working on a professional project with a quality end product.   This encourages resilience and helps them develop many skills and qualities associated with Growth Mindset.

We decided that rather than introducing the term ‘Growth Mindset’ to the students we would hold a series of assemblies focused on some of the attributes of Growth Mindset. After completing this we would then ask the students to complete reflection journals, about when they had displayed these and what they could do to improve. Finally we could introduce the idea of Growth Mindset.

Hub 2 presentation is available to download below:

Challenge Hub 2 – 6th November 2014

Learning Hub 3 Spring Term

We began this session by discussing our continued use of process praise and growth mind-set language.  Everybody felt it was continuing to have a positive impact on the students.  In particular PE felt it had an impact on those students who often don’t enjoy physical education or find it very difficult.


Many departments are beginning to use Memrise both in lessons and as extended homework activities.  We discussed how using Memrise encouraged the students to keep practising until they got the answer correct which is fostered a growth mindset approach.  Many staff commented how students were keen to keep trying until they got the right answer and did not give up easily.

After discussing the progress we have made and the direction we would like to go in we chose to use the session to create resources that could be used across the school.

Student mindset

As it stands roughly 600 students have completed the questionnaire.  All classes have now completed this is ICT lessons however some students have been reluctant to enter their names so we can look at the relationship between GM and progress.  Our network manager has suggested we could use the new system which is coming into place for the questionnaires as this will log the response against a students user name however this system is not up and running yet.

In the autumn term we planned a series of assemblies to deliver to students however due to assemblies not running weekly for a number of reasons including mock exams not all assemblies were delivered to all students.  We decided that delivering this as Issue Of the Week may be a more viable way to ensure all students are focusing on the same thing weekly.

Staff mindset

As a group we discussed the importance of having all staff behind the growth mindset approach so students were consistently getting the same message in all lessons.  We felt that some staff maybe didn’t buy into the theory so we needed a way of proving it’s credibility.  After researching what other successful schools have done it become apparent the best way to do this is to educate staff about the science behind GM and also show how growth mindset approaches have helped other schools improve.  We discussed ways this could be done included further staff training.

Hub objectives and development plan

  • Create a set of IOWs to roll out Spring Half Term 1.  Design Learning Journal for students. Week 1 – Motivation/Inspiration, Week 2 – Aspiration, Week 3 – Resilience, Week 4 – Self esteem, Week 5 – Mindset
  • Determine key traits of growth mindset and identify opportunities to encourage these in different subjects areas.
  • Encourage the use of GM language across the school – posters to be displayed in all classrooms (discussed the possibility of a GM display in all classrooms)
  • Look at possible opportunities for GM displays in subjects areas and in corridors around the school
  • Investigate the possibility of a challenge day dedicated to GM (to go ahead in the summer term)
  • Share with students growth mindset scores (Create an info PPT about GM for tutors to use and share score with students)
  • Create an information leaflet/PPT for staff about growth mindset

We now have a set of issue of the week PPTs ready to use with students after February Half Term and a possible Learning Journal for them to complete along with this.  Some of the hub members spent time researching GM displays and collecting/designing potential resources to be displayed around school.

A PPT has also been created to use with students when sharing their GM score with them. All documents will then be checked and collated.

Next steps

  • ATE to meet with DBR to discuss progress
  • Continue to use´The power of ‘YET’ – using growth mindset language.  Trial displays in classrooms
  • Process praise – trial with one class
  • ATE to feedback results of student questionnaire
  • All members to choose a class to track against growth mindset (to start term 2)
  • Research ways to involves parents and the wider community (e.g. feeder primary schools)

Hub 3 presentation is available to download below:

Challenge Hub 3 – 15th January 2015

Learning Hub 4 Spring Term

This half term we will be introducing the key traits of growth mindset to students.  To introduce this we will focus on five key weekly themes starting with inspiration and motivation.  Students will discuss this in lessons and in tutor time through issue of the week activities. CTLs have been briefed about the themes this week and will be discussing ideas with departments over the next few weeks.

You can download each of the five presentations by clicking on the thumbnails below:













self esteem








Update on key themes

Each hub member shared some examples of how they used inspiration/motivation in their lessons.

  • English – referred to Shakespeare and J.K Rowling as examples of inspirational people in their subject area
  • Maths – used examples of famous people who had a background  in mathematics e.g. Brian May started his career as a maths teacher, Glen Johnson the Liverpool footballer studied for his maths degree while playing football for LFC
  • ICT/Business – used examples of entrepreneurs who came from working class backgrounds, worked hard at something they were passionate about to become self-made millionaires e.g. Lord Sugar, Karen Brady, Richard Branson, Steve Jobs
  • ILC – Used examples of movie stars etc. who were bilingual/multilingual and how that contributed to their successful careers.
  • Science – Science designed starter activities based around motivation and inspiration.  They also focused on Tom Daley and the science behind his successful career.
  • PE – Focused on famous sports stars and looked at their journey to success

Challenge and assessment rubrics

After spending the first three hubs focusing on growth mindset we moved the focus to challenge.  All hub members brought to the meeting a KS3 rubric from their subject area. The rubrics were lined up in order to compare levels of challenge in different subject areas.  This formed the basis for a lengthy discussion about what challenge looked like in different subject areas and how the rubrics were used to promote challenge.  Some of the key findings from the rubric comparison were:

  • All subjects had made their rubrics more challenging than the national curriculum levels previously used
  • In all subjects the ‘beyond’ flight path was likened to AS/A level standards although only a few students were currently achieving this
  • Due to the nature of some subjects some rubrics were based more on skills rather than knowledge, these rubrics were applied to all of KS3. Some departments used a different rubric for each year group in KS3.
  • All hub members shared the rubrics with students and used them to encourage students to aim high rather than giving them a target and expecting them to aim for that.

Beyond this the comparison of challenge in such differing subjects proved to be quite difficult therefore the discussion turned to other ways challenge could be measured.  Over the next half term hub members will be researching this and coming up with ideas for a student voice questionnaire based on challenge.  These will be shared at the next hub meeting.

Next steps

  • Meet with all staff about the introduction of growth mindset to students whole school
  • Share the themes of the week with students in tutor time and lesson activities
  • Research how challenge can be measured in lessons
  • Research how levels of challenge can be raised in lessons

Hub 4 presentation is available to download below:

Challenge Hub 4 – 26th February 2015

3 thoughts on “Challenge

  1. Pingback: Growth Mindset? | mrbenney

  2. Anne Connelly

    I’ve found this blog really useful but was hoping to have a go at the full questionnaire myself. Is it possible to send me a copy of it please?


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