The power of “yet….”

The RSA in London have just released another of their wonderful RSA Animate videos – short talks by key researchers set to customised animations drawn apparently in real time by the ‘hairy hand’.  The latest features Carol Dweck speaking on ‘How to help every child fulfil their potential’.

Dweck is well-know for her work on the difference between treating intelligence with a ‘fixed mindset’ (intelligence is fixed at birth) or a ‘growth mindset’ (intelligence develops and changes).  This video gives an excellent summary of her ideas and research.

Towards the end of the video, Dweck speaks about the power of the word ‘yet…’.  One of the schools she mentioned doesn’t give ‘failing’ students a ‘Fail’ grade – instead they get a ‘Not Yet’ grade.  I’ve been teaching this in my accelerated learning workshops since the 1990s, and there is a very solution-focused flavour to the idea.

I think it’s about presuppositions.  ‘You’ve failed’ sounds like a statement of fact, once and for all.  ‘You haven’t passed yet…’ is much more grounded in the now, and has the presupposition that you might and indeed will pass – in the future.  The same phrase can then lead into a conversation about what will happen in between now and passing.  It’s so simple to try, and can make such a difference.

Now enjoy the RSA Animate film of Carol Dweck:



2 responses

  1. That same ‘not yet’ logic is a cornerstone og the assessment approach with in the Standards movement. You know, NVQs and all that. YPs and their teachers have by now become quite cynical about a governmental education ideology enacted by Ofsted in which ‘satisfactory’ as a rating for a school has become ‘unsatisfactory in a queasy Orwellian stylee, and in which saying ‘not yet competent [the NVQ version] is heard as ‘failed’.

    Despite all that, the focus on ‘yet’ is, as you say, quite solutiony and positive in broad coaching context with adults.

  2. Thanks for these thoughts Arthur. Yes, I can see how ‘not yet competent’ can be heard as ‘failed’… and perhaps that’s an indication that those concerned were coming from a fixed mindset, as opposed to a growth mindset?

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