There is more in you than you think. If only we can be brought to realise this you’ll never settle for lessKurt Hahn
Often, at the beginning of our course, our participants will ask their instructors how those activities they will take part in, such as going on an expedition, learning how to set up a camp with a fire to cook dinner on and a bivouac to sleep in will be useful for them in everyday life.
One of the learning outcomes that our courses aim at is shifting a student’s fixed mindset towards a growth mindset through challenging activities in the outdoors where they at times struggle and fail, develop different strategies, understand how their attitudes affect their behaviours and ultimately succeed in their goal with the help of the rest of the group.
Experiencing the difference between a fixed and a growth mindset
Students with a growth mindset understand that intelligence and abilities can be developed with practice and persistence, instead of being innate characteristics of certain people.
Having a growth or fixed mindset influences how a person approaches challenging situations and behaves facing struggle, which ultimately impacts the final success. Research has shown that learning that intelligence and ability can be developed leads to the development of a growth mindset in students.
A growth mindset is also closely linked to high resilience and the ability to bounce back from failure.
Many of the activities in nature that the participants will engage in during an Outward Bound course will present a first-time experience to them and at first sight and try seem impossible to succeed in – be it packing all the necessary personal and group equipment and food for the expedition in their backpack, carrying that heavy backpack by themselves, navigating to the campsite using a map and a compass or climbing a 20 meter high rock trusting a partner who is belaying them from the ground.
Outdoor experiential learning courses are created to present a high but achievable challenge to the participants, if they are ready to push themselves and support each other. This way they can face failure, get enough opportunities to try out different strategies and ultimately find out why they’ve succeeded. And as Jo Boaler from Stanford University points out – only mistakes provide an opportunity for learning and growth, which is what students need to understand to develop a growth mindset.
The experience itself is not what makes the learning happen
It is through facilitated reflection after the activity itself or at the end of the course that they gain understanding of their own mindset and how it impacts their behaviour.
That’s when participants are invited to recall on the day, on how they approached a certain situation and what helped them succeed. When reflecting on the process they understand quickly that not giving up and being open to trying out different strategies was what led to the success and what made them more courageous with every new activity.
So, is a growth mindset teachable?
Experiential learning through adventures in the outdoors is an excellent way of “teaching” students to develop a growth mindset and resilience. The great thing is that they are not being explicitly thought, but led to experience this by themselves, whereas the instructors are only there to ask them the right questions to put the experience from the course into the wider context of their life.
Outward Bound courses are all about challenging yourself more than you would in your everyday life. They are not about climbing the highest rock, walking the longest distance, carrying the heaviest backpack or finding the way to the camp without getting lost.
They are about overcoming your fear, no matter what it is that causes it, be it bugs, height, stating your opinion publicly or having your group depend on you leading them to the camp-site before dark. They’re about putting effort into achieving your goal and bouncing back when you fail to do so at the first try, accepting failure as just one step on the path to success and finding more creative ways of how to get there.
They are also about being able to reflect on your attitudes, emotions and behaviour to learn from your experience and then taking all of that into the future and being motivated to continue to learn and develop your entire life.
How do you encourage your students with a fixed mindset to change it?
Do you believe your students would perform better if they adopted a growth mindset?
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