Growth Mindset and Positive Education

Growth Mindset and Positive Psychology are intimately linked.

The intention of Positive Psychology is to help individuals develop the psychological factors that contribute to a well-lived and fulfilling life. These include [1]character strengths and virtues, such as: wisdom and knowledge, courage, humanity, justice, temperance and transcendence.

What’s the connection?

People with a Fixed Mindset see themselves as fixed. For them, character strengths and virtues are either something they have or don’t have. On the other hand, people with a Growth Mindset understand they can change. They know they are capable of developing these strengths and virtues. So, before schools can even begin developing these characteristics in students, we must develop and instil in them a Growth Mindset.

Positive? Or Education?

Mick Walsh, a leader in the field of Positive Education, founder of The Learning Curve, and a friend and colleague of mine, recently made an interesting observation. He told me:

“The Positive Education movement is gaining momentum in schools at an increasing rate. Unfortunately, sections of this movement are intent on keeping the discussion to the Positive part of the term Positive Education, while at the same time, schools are floundering with how to implement the Education part pedagogically.”

This struck a chord with me. I see the same thing happening with Growth Mindset. Many in the field are highly focused on the Mindset side of the equation (beliefs) and pay relatively little attention to how to achieve the Growth.

Mick and I work in overlapping and related fields, and we share a common focus. We recognise there’s a lot of noise in education telling us “what” should be changed, so we are interested in helping educators actually achieve those changes and create real improvements in student outcomes.

In Mick’s case, he helps schools increase student well-being by developing their character strengths and virtues. In my case, I’m interested in helping schools not only understand what a Growth Mindset is, but how to develop one – and, most importantly, how to achieve growth in whatever area the student is pursuing!

In other words, Mick is putting the Education back in Positive Education and I’m putting the Growth back in Growth Mindset!

A positive way forward

Another friend of mine and driver in the field of Positive Education is Luke McKenna, founder of Unleashing Personal Potential (UPP). Like Mick and I, Luke is focused on making a difference to the lives of students.

Luke and his team at UPP are dedicated to making scientifically grounded strategies engaging, relevant, challenging and inspiring. They specialise in facilitating exceptional student incursions and workshops that are designed to build Growth Mindsets, grit, wellbeing and leadership for students in primary and secondary schools.

For those interested in Positive Education, and how these practices might help your school community, download Luke’s “[2]Pos Ed Explained” article, designed to support schools implementing Positive Education initiatives.

The Agile Learner puts belief into action

Essentially, Mick, Luke and I are interested in the same result: for educators to focus on and create real and improved outcomes for students. So, I was thrilled when Mick said in his review of my book, The Agile Learner: “After 45 years in education as a teacher, leader and author, James illuminated my understanding of the processes involved in learning.”

That’s what Learning Agility is all about, the process of learning. Whether you’re developing character strengths and virtues, learning to do quadratic equations, studying to be a virtuoso violinist, or trying to become a better parent – you need Learning Agility.

The Agile Learner is someone who has a Growth Mindset. They understand they are capable of growth, they accept the invitation to grow and they effectively enter into the process of learning. They understand how to achieve that growth by applying their Habits of Mind through the process of Virtuous Practice.

Someone with a Growth Mindset knows they can change. But an Agile Learner knows how to achieve that change!

I’m honoured that Mick has included The Agile Learner in his list of Positive Education readings: The Education Perspective. He has also included Mindset (Carol Dweck), Peak (Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool) and Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind (Art Costa and Bena Kallick). These three books encapsulate the [3]three ideas every educator needs to understand.

Developing a Growth Mindset is foundational to your work with Positive Education. Without a Growth Mindset, students see their character strengths and virtues (or weaknesses) simply as part of who they are. With a Growth Mindset, students understand they are capable of developing these strengths. And when they have Learning Agility, they have the capacity to grow and develop these important domains.

Dare I be the first to say that Learning Agility is the basis for Growth Education?


  1. Peterson C., Seligman M., 2004, Character Strengths and Virtues,, accessed 19th March 2018,
  2. McKenna, L., POS ED EXPLAINED,, accessed 19th March 2018,
  3. Anderson, J., 2017, The three ideas every educator needs to understand. (And the one book that brings them all together!),, accessed 19th March 2018,



James Anderson is a speaker, author and educator who is passionate about helping fellow educators develop students as better learners. James’ work combines Growth Mindset with Habits of Mind and Practice to create Learning Agility. He puts the growth back into Growth Mindset. And through creating and describing the Mindset Continuum, he provides the cornerstone for effective Growth Mindset interventions.

James is a Certified Speaking Professional and speaks regularly at conferences around the world. He has published several books including Succeeding with Habits of Mind, The Agile Learner, The Mindset Continuum and The Learning Landscape.

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One Comment

  • Fulata November 10, 2021 at 7:23 pm

    Quite eye opening and easily accessible knowledge and ideas with high motivation as pedagogical to the reader becoming an agile learner. Would your growth mindset toolkit help to deconstruct the fixed mindset?

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