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Changing the way you think can change the way you learn. Because of this, having a growth mindset might be one of the most important parts of education. 

Imagine if you could do anything, just because you believe you can. That’s essentially a growth mindset – knowing your talents can be developed can help you achieve more in life.

In this article you will discover why it’s important to have a growth mindset, how a growth mindset begins in the classroom and how to develop yours. At the end of the article, we’ll also discuss why having a growth mindset at GVI helps ensure we make a sustainable impact.


Participants collect data on butterflies in Thailand. The training that takes place on a GVI project is greatly enhanced when approached with a growth mindset.

What does it mean to have a growth mindset?

Carol Dweck, a Stanford psychology professor, pioneered research that revealed that underlying beliefs about intelligence can have a dramatic impact on education. 

Studies by Dweck showed that individuals who believe talents can be learned achieve more than those who believe talents are innate qualities. This led her to coin the phrase “growth mindset”. 


Video by: Stanford Alumni


The growth mindset is based on the idea that intelligence is malleable and that when you change your mindset to a growth perspective, you can achieve more.

The idea of pliable intelligence ties in with neural development. Studies on brain plasticity have shown how connections between neurons can change with experience. When you practise something, neural networks develop new connections and strengthen existing ones.

So, when you practise a new skill or learn something new, you are stimulating neural growth. Through the process of learning, you can actually change the structure of your brain, developing and rewiring it to engage in more positive ways of doing things.


Participants enjoy some rest while on a GVI program. Approaching a GVI program with a growth mindset will help to maximise the opportunities for learning.

Fixed mindset vs growth mindset

A fixed mindset is based on the assumption that our intelligence, creativity, and skills are fixed traits that we can’t change. 

As such, when people with a fixed mindset make a mistake, they believe it reflects weaknesses that are impossible to change. People with this mindset prioritise documenting talent, as they are concerned with appearing intelligent, instead of working to improve personal qualities.

This view also dictates that talent is a quality a person is born with and is the main factor in success, meaning effort isn’t necessary to succeed.

The key difference between a fixed and a growth mindset is that people with a growth mindset believe qualities such as intelligence, personality or character can be cultivated through effort. Through application and experience, anyone can grow and learn.


Participants apply a growth mindset while learning conservation techniques in Chiang Mai.

Having a growth mindset in the classroom

Believing you can learn anything you put your mind to is crucial in education. Cultivating this growth mindset often starts with teachers and the way they respond to students’ work.

Praising students for hard work, rather than intelligence, will help to foster confidence that anything can be learned with the right amount of effort. When students worry less about looking intelligent and put more energy into learning, they’ll achieve more overall.


A GVI teacher encourages the growth mindset in the classroom by rewarding hard work over intelligence.


Conversely, Dweck’s research found that when teacher’s praise children for being smart, they encourage a fixed mindset, which discourages students from taking on challenges. 

Many students can be afraid to admit they need to work at a task, out of fear they’ll look unintelligent. In fact, psychology researchers have found that a fixed mindset is associated with more mental health challenges in adolescents. 

Teenagers with a fixed mindset were 58% more likely to have symptoms of anxiety, depression, or aggression than their peers with a growth mindset. 

However, putting effort into learning doesn’t mean a student isn’t naturally smart. Putting in effort should be viewed as the reason students enjoy academic success, rather than a reason to be embarrassed. 

When a growth mindset for students is adopted in the classroom, learning potential is limitless.


A GVI teacher encourages growth mindset for students in English lessons.

How to develop a growth mindset

To develop a growth mindset while learning something new, view challenges as opportunities and mistakes as lessons learned, rather than failures. 

One of the best ways to remind yourself to persevere and resist giving up after you have a setback is to use the word “yet”.


GVI participants learn conservation techniques while on a program in Phang Nga. By bringing a growth mindset to the program, they maximise learning.


For example, you might not know how to speak Spanish yet. 

You might not know how to teach others yet.

You might not know how to lead a team yet. 

You might not know how to carry out biological surveys yet. 

But, with the right attitude and determination to learn, you’ll be able to do all of these things while learning more about local and global issues and improving your employability at the same time. 

Applying a growth mindset to for-good work

A GVI participant encourages learners to approach classes with a growth mindset: where hard work trumps innate talent.


The growth mindset is an important part of GVI’s commitment to growth and development, both in terms of training individuals and working towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).

The UN SDGs require persistent growth, and a willingness to change how you approach them. We adapt how we work to ensure we are responding to current best practices, a mentality that is reflected in our Badge of Ethics. Our badge represents our journey of consistent development and growth through reflection.

We also apply the growth mindset to our training for participants. Our programs can present a range of challenges, so we encourage you to approach them with an open mind. We’ll provide you with comprehensive training for all of the skills you’ll need, and a growth mindset will help make sure you get the most out of this learning process. 

Participating with GVI is an excellent way to exercise your growth mindset and apply this perspective to new learning opportunities. Explore our range of internships and volunteer programs to find out more about the skills you can learn, while making an impact in the world.

We understand that you may have questions about how COVID-19 will affect your travel plans. Visit our FAQs page which explains our latest safety protocols in response to COVID-19. 

Disclaimer: The images in this article were taken pre-COVID-19.