How we develop a growth mindset in our outdoor courses

When delivering our outdoor education courses, it is common to meet students who are cautious and hesitant when trying new things and experiences. Some may be unwilling to participate in a challenge, regardless of whether they have previously experienced it, while others might give-in in the face of adversity.

And yet, despite this, we know that many students are willing to try new things, bounce back from failure, and find strategies to enable them to persist rather than give in. So, what sets these students apart from the others, and what can be done to help grow this attitude? One answer may lie in the sharing of mindset theory. In our courses, we try to help students understand how their mindset can affect how they feel, think and behave in challenging situations, and influence the outcomes they experience.

By now, many people have heard of Carol Dweck’s concept of the Growth Mindset. It has permeated mainstream thinking in sports, education and the workplace. But if you haven’t heard of it, here is a quick explanation:

Students with a fixed mindset tend to believe that intelligence and character are purely things they’re born with rather than things that can be developed. Whereas students with a growth mindset understand that skills and abilities can be developed and improved by engaging with challenges and applying effort rather than giving up when things become challenging, those with a growth mindset use their efforts to find different strategies to overcome setbacks. As well as trying harder, they try differently.


During our courses, the attitudes and behaviours associated with the two mindsets are incited when participants confront challenging and unfamiliar situations. Requiring participants to leave the safety of their home, daily routines and comfort zones helps us achieve this. Going on an adventure is an opportunity for them to understand, test and demonstrate their resources and learn about their responses to challenging situations. Do they help or hinder when it comes to achievement?

This newfound self-awareness can help young people understand and practice new ways of thinking and behaving, supporting them to take on new challenges. In the Outward Bound environment, this may be a decision to participate in a life-saving scenario or choose to continue with a sea kayak journey despite previously believing this was too difficult or scary.

Once students have gained a good knowledge of what a growth mindset is, we have found that it can begin to form a central part of setting up the day and review sessions at the end of an adventure. For instance – if a student expressed doubt or anxiety about a challenge beforehand and then later achieves it – revisiting and reviewing the initial doubt helps them realise they’re capable of adopting a growth mindset, which can also apply to other areas of their life. We can also begin to identify links between effort and reward and identify strategies for success.

Watch this video – a TEDx talk by Eduardo Briceño that will teach you more about a growth mindset.

Outward Bound Netherlands

Outward Bound® and the Compass Rose are each registered trademarks of Outward Bound International. Outward Bound Netherlands is an educational non-profit organisation registered under number 63491419.


Outward Bound International

Outward Bound Netherlands is proud to be part of Outward Bound International. Outward Bound International is a membership organisation of the worldwide Outward Bound network. This network consists of 34 Outward Bound schools around the world.