Establish a Powerful Growth Mindset Culture

All educators wish to see their learners flourish. Both now and long into their futures, they aim to nurture individuals’ self-belief and help them to reach their full potential in life.

Installing a Growth Mindset will help set children on a pathway to success. Learners will understand that they can control their learning and increase their own intelligence by putting in the effort and practise, perseverance, learning specific strategies, and asking questions to learn from their own mistakes.

All of these ways will help youngsters to develop an attitude to aim high, and it gives them the self-belief that they can create their own bright futures, whatever their origins and background.

What is a Growth Mindset?

Over 30 years ago an American psychologist, Professor Carol Dweck (author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success), researched and discovered evidence showing that people all have different beliefs about the underlying nature of ability.

She studied the behaviour of thousands of children and created the terms fixed mindset and growth mindset to describe the underlying beliefs people have about learning and intelligence. Her neuroscientific discoveries have shown us that we can increase our neural growth by the actions we take.

A Growth Mindset

Learners believe that their intelligence and their abilities can be developed through effort, persistence, trying different strategies and learning from mistakes.

A Fixed Mindset

Learners believe that their intelligence and their abilities are fixed traits; something that they are born with and that they can’t really do anything about.

In a world where Growth Mindset rules over a Fixed Mindset, anything is possible and the future can be moulded and shaped for young people, depending on their attitudes, effort and persistence. The attitude that anything is possible and achievable, improves motivation and fuels success through determination. ‘It’s certainly not over, until it’s over!’

How can we develop a Growth Mindset effectively, through outdoor play?

The Outdoor Learning Environment provides the perfect place to develop a Growth Mindset for kids, where children can develop resilience, determination and to practise and improve their skills, whilst engaging in play, discovery and exploration.

They have the time and space to face challenges, develop their skills, as well as permission and freedom to both calculate and tackle risks in a safe and controlled environment.

Pupils learn first-hand how they can build up their abilities and skills through effort, practise and perseverance. They will learn how they can improve their abilities and increase their own levels of challenge to test and stretch their own personal limits.

A well planned, accessible and inclusive outdoor play space, equipped with stimulating equipment certainly increases children’s motivation, well-being and in turn behaviour and achievement usually, see an improvement.

A happy, confident child, for whom the outdoors presents a world of challenge, fun and progressive learning, will naturally explore, adapt and broaden their knowledge and skill set.

They will take this attitude of success and self-belief back into the indoors classroom, with the support and positive encouragement from their teachers and peers; success breeds success; belief instils self-belief!

How can adults support the development of a Growth Mindset, through outdoor play?

The great news is that research shows that Mindsets can be changed relatively quickly and easily and there are plenty of things that adults can do to help. Here are a few useful tips and ideas to promote a healthy Growth Mindset in your youngsters. The opportunities for Growth Mindset activities outdoors are limitless.

1. Build confidence through specific praise

Always pay attention to the effort a child has put in, rather than focus on the results. Praise improvement or the process. For example, praise learners for their ‘careful, thoughtful climbing’ to reach a platform on a Play Tower, or for “reaching the top of a Scramble Net through great perseverance and determination”, rather than saying well done for getting to the top.

Catch your pupils being persistent and determined and share openly and with enthusiasm, that you’ve noticed their efforts. And how they’ve improved.  Perhaps exclaim: “Well done. You didn’t give up, so you’ve made it further than before.” Or say: “By practising you’re getting much better at your climbing. What did you do that worked so well this time?”  or “Wow. That worked! What did you do differently?”

Whether your children are playing enthusiastically on Outdoor Instruments, messily creating a mud potion in a gloopy Mud Kitchen or excitedly creating a secretive Den, there are opportunities for adults to express specific, focussed praise at every turn. Children can then discover why they’ve improved and understand their next steps to further success.

2. Celebrate mistakes together!

Endeavour to encourage a healthy attitude to failure and challenge, by presenting every failure or mistake as an amazing opportunity to learn. It is very important for adults to model that its ok to make mistakes and that how them they don’t always have to be successful in their actions.

Explain positively: “How would we learn anything new if we didn’t make a mistake to learn from?”  Encourage learners to keep the bigger picture in mind: “if we learn to do this by practising and giving ourselves time, what can we go on to achieve?”  If a child masters Low Level Balancing, then they can aim to go higher on a longer on Balancing Equipment in the future.

If a little one masters climbing a few steps on a Little Movers Climber, then they will develop the confidence to attempt a Climbing Wall and aim to get higher and further over time. Outdoor Play Equipment often gives a very visual representation to children of the small or large steps of progress being made; its perfect for modelling a great Growth Mindset attitude! Albert Einstein once said:  “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

Give your children the confidence and permission to fail.  If a child utters: “There’s no point trying that, I’ll never be able to do it” or if they avoid doing something because they’ve failed during past attempts, it’s important to change their mindset to believe they can’t do it ‘yet’… but will be able to if they try and give it time and effort.<.p>

Help them to discover that they can improve their own abilities by practising, or by finding a different way to achieve their goal. Developing resilience to failure and determination to succeed can help make children more resilient for their future lives too. We want children to face challenges with excitement and to bounce back from failure, like when having fun on a trampoline!

3. Set high expectations

Teach your children to embrace challenge and foster their self-belief. Always challenge all participants to make progress and look to praise the effort for their achievements, whatever their current ability. Introduce and use the word ‘yet’ as often as possible.

For example, a child may not have mastered the speedy Fire Fighters Pole as a useful exit on a play tower or succeeded in crossing the challenging Twisty Rope Climber yet, but with practise and time and effort, they will get stronger and master the technique. Children may find the funny Rocking Log tricky at first, but given time and practise, they will soon master the technique to staying put, whilst the log rocks and rolls!

Aim high with your expectations for all learners and try not to underestimate the children. Let them know that you believe in them and that their ability to achieve is limitless.

Teach them to share their struggles and let them know that it’s OK to seek help and to learn by watching others, asking advice and determining what they are finding tricky. Aim high like a trapeze artist balancing on a high wire!

4. Inspire through celebrating real-life role models

Share stories of how people have succeeded in life, sport and education etc, through hard work and perseverance. Tell them about the journeys people have taken to become successful in their fields.

Tell them, over and over and over that all ‘brains can get stronger’ and that it’s up to them to learn new techniques and strategies to succeed. Let them know that if they put in the time and effort they too will see the reward. shares how many incredibly famous people, including Walt Disney, Oprah Winfrey and Albert Einstein, failed many times, refused to give up on their dreams and that’s how they eventually reached their huge success.

Their determination and resilience rose them above the rest and proved all their cynics wrong. Many great Olympians have only seen success by trying something new and discovering they are either good at it, or with practise and dedication they can become great competitors.

For younger children, share stories of people that are familiar to them, like parents, teachers and brothers and sisters that have achieved great goals through hard work and determination and the want to succeed and improve or to reach a dream.

To learn more about the philosophy of Growth Mindset and the ‘Power of Yet’(where leaners learn that if they can’t do something yet, they can work towards it, as opposed to if you can’t do it ‘now’, you’re a failure) visit the link below to hear Professor Carol Dweck explain and evidence research into the ‘Power of Yet’:

Growth Mindset for All

A growth mindset fosters motivation, resilience and persistence through rewarding effort, strategy and progress. Difficulty, challenge and effort leads to growth of connections in the mind as well as improved achievement and acquiring new life skills.

At Schoolscapes we take pride in designing awesome outdoor play spaces, where children are both free to explore their creativity and imaginations, as well as actively encouraged to be risk takers, grow, face challenges and enjoy hands-on learning.

So together let’s encourage all of our children to reach for the stars of tomorrow, rather than judge them on what they can achieve today, and what better place is there to encourage this positive thinking, other than in the great outdoors, where children can explore, learn and achieve under limitless skies, whilst breathing in fresh air, surrounded by nature!

For further helpful resources supporting developing pupils Growth Mindset and perfect ideas for Growth Mindset displays and quotes visit:

Establish a Powerful Growth Mindset Culture was last modified: May 5th, 2020 by Steve Bell

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