Approaching Learning Through Play with a Growth Mindset: From Theory to Reality


Tam Vo Thi


5 minutes read

The word mindset was first used at the turn of the twentieth century to describe habits of mind formed by previous experience (Gollwitzer, 1990)[1]. Mindsets are associated with the unfolding of human potential in two primary directions, namely fixed mindset and growth mindset[2]. Learning through Play (LtP) is an educational approach which helps teachers to develop their growth mindset. LtP acts as a “frame of reference” that shapes teachers’ capacities for perception and action, which plays a central role in a teacher’s ability to be the transformation, such as the new general education program (GEP)[3] in Vietnam. Organising teaching and learning activities with the LtP approach in primary education not only provides teachers with specific methods and techniques, but also fosters a growth mindset within themselves.

By learning more about LtP as a mindset and applying it into daily teaching, teachers join a global learning ecosystem which is dedicated to the transformation of themselves, school, and society. It is in this learning ecosystem that the teachers realise the reason that LtP is much more than teaching techniques. At a deeper level, adopting LtP as a mindset allows teachers to see new possibilities and actualise them in their teaching and learning. For teachers, a growth mindset in LtP is based on a belief that their abilities and intelligence are malleable and can be developed through hard work, self-learning, peer learning, putting in deliberate effort, and using effective teaching strategies. Teachers feel confident to try new things and are less discouraged by the inevitability of failures and setbacks. This leads to teachers who are passionate about growing and drawing inspiration from other colleagues who are applying LtP in primary education.

Inheriting the successes of educational development policies of several countries, Vietnam has been applying strategies to develop a modern education model such as diversifying the educational approaches towards the goal of fundamentally and comprehensively innovating the country’s education system, shifting from knowledge-focused teaching to developing learner competences and qualifications[4]. This helps learners to develop comprehensively and meets the requirements of high-quality human resource development and education so that learners become global citizens in the context of globalisation. From the perspective of educational management, to successfully implement the new GEP, it is necessary to invest and implement three pillars simultaneously: teachers, curriculum, and infrastructure.

When we consider the curriculum and infrastructure as basic attributes, teacher professional development and innovating teaching methods should be the first priority. Investing in teachers is the bottom-line strategy that determines the success of innovating teaching methods and transforming teachers’ mindsets to successfully implement the new GEP in Vietnam.

Recognising a harsh reality, according to statistics from the Ministry of Education and Training, the country still lacked 118,253 teachers at the end of the 2022-2023 school year. Among them, the primary school level lacks more than 33,000 teachers. The number of teachers is not enough to arrange 1.5 teachers/class as required by the GEP[5]. In addition, teachers’ access to innovative teaching methods is still limited and the new GEP is still being rolled out, meaning that teachers need to make exceptional efforts to meet their educational mandate. Teachers must research, update content, and practise new teaching methods according to the new curriculum and textbooks.

At the local education management level, a study  showed that applying LtP as a mindset to teaching and learning activities still faces many difficulties and challenges. The study indicates that teachers are facing many barriers in terms of awareness, knowledge, skills, and perception including:

  1. The period for a lesson is too short to deploy playful activities to increase student autonomy;
  2. Primary students are too young, cannot be independent and need direct instruction rather than guided play.
  3. It takes much more time to develop LtP lesson plans and prepare learning materials for LtP lessons;
  4. The number of students in one class is too large, making it difficult for classroom management;
  5. Teachers are still bound by many regulations in teaching, and it leads to the limitations of creativity and lack of enabling environments for LtP applying;
  6. Lack of teaching equipment and majority of facilities are fixed, inflexible classroom layouts.

In addition to the challenges surveyed above, there are still additional drawbacks related to the knowledge, skills, and perception of LtP as well as obstacles in fostering LtP expertise at schools. In-depth interviews with teachers at a primary school in Quang Tri province discussed the management of teaching activities in practice.”Math and Vietnamese are two “dry” subjects that are difficult to apply LtP to in teaching and learning activities. Furthermore, the amount of knowledge and the requirements that need to be met in these two subjects in one class period is high because these are the two main and most important subjects in primary school. Therefore, teachers have limited time to integrate LtP to ensure the objectives of the lesson, even though teachers really want to promote the students’ autonomy in the classroom,” said Ms. Nguyen Thi H, one of the teachers there.

Many efforts are made to apply a growth mindset to LtP. For example, VVOB’s iPLAY project in Vietnam already laid the foundation to transfer the LtP mindset for teachers who are implementing 2018 GEP[6].

There have been many dilemmas for educators in this transformational journey. And innovating teaching methods is no longer a trend but a mandatory requirement for teachers to successfully implement the new GEP[7]. Just as teachers with a growth mindset are constantly seeking to improve, so can the support system adopt a growth mindset to keep improving its efforts to create an enabling environment for teachers. Part of the answer is that teachers and the education sector need more long-term and comprehensive investment in teacher professional development, not only from government policies and strategies, but also from programs of educational and development organisations.



[1] Gollwitzer, P.M. (1990). Action phases and mind-sets. In E.T.Higgins & R.M.Sorrentino (Eds.), The handbook of motivation and cognition: Foundations of Social Behavior (Vol.2,pp.52–92). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

[2] Dweck, C.S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York, NY: Random House.

[3] Circular no. 32/2018/TT-BGDDT, dated December 26, 2018. General Education Program. Ministry of Education and Training

[4] Resolution no. 29-NQ/TW. Dated 4 November 2013. Ref: Basic and Comprehensive Innovation of Education and Training, Meeting Requirements of Industrialisation and Modernisation in the Conditions of International Enterprise

[5] https://www.vietnamplus.vn/thieu-giao-vien-khap-ca-nuoc-nganh-giao-duc-chat-vat-doi-moi/892179.vnp

[6] VVOB. (2023). A guide to learning through play at primary education level. Vietnam National University Press. https://vietnam.vvob.org/en/resources/materials-primary-leaders-and-teachers-learning-through-play

[7] Circular No. 20/2018/TT-BGDĐT, dated 22 August 2018. Promulgating regulations on professional standards of teachers of general education institutions. Ministry of Education and Training


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Tam Vo Thi

Education Advisor, VVOB Vietnam

Tam Vo has over 16 years of experience in the education sector in Viet Nam. She leverages experiences from Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change education to bring innovative teaching pedagogies into the public education system. Tam was the first person in Vietnam to research the “Safe school model” and is the author of “Safe school frame_ Guide for School management board”. As an Education Advisor at VVOB Vietnam, Tam focuses on designing and implementing capacity development trajectories for the project partners such as departments of education and training, school leaders, and teachers. Her role is to work together with the VVOB team and project

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