Shaping space and practice to support autonomy: Lessons from natural settings in Scotland

Alexia Barrable (Lead / Corresponding author)

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    16 Citations (Scopus)
    103 Downloads (Pure)


    In the present paper, I explore some of the concrete manifestation of autonomy support in natural childcare and early childhood education settings, under the organising framework of self-determination theory. More specifically, I present the ways in which early childhood educators shape the space of natural settings and use the affordances of the natural environment to promote autonomy in children aged 3–8 years. The practices presented are a result of direct observation in several Scotland-based outdoor settings, observations and organic conversations with educators in outdoor and forest kindergartens. Hopefully the practices and spaces presented in this paper can be of use by educators and setting managers who aim to support autonomous learning and intrinsic motivation in their pupils in outdoor natural early years’ settings.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages15
    JournalLearning Environments Research
    Issue number3
    Early online date2 Dec 2019
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


    • forest school
    • early childhood
    • autonomy
    • self-determination theory
    • practice
    • Early childhood
    • Self-determination theory
    • Practice
    • Autonomy
    • Forest school

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Education
    • Communication
    • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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