The Learning Challenge
How to Guide Your Students Through the Learning Pit to Achieve Deeper Understanding
Foreword by John Hattie
Corwin Teaching Essentials
Embrace challenge and celebrate eureka!
Challenge makes learning more interesting. That’s one of the reasons to encourage your students to dive into the learning pit—a state of cognitive conflict that forces students to think more deeply, critically, and strategically until they discover their “eureka!” moment. Nottingham, an internationally known author and consultant, will show you how to promote challenge, dialogue, and a growth mindset through:
- Practical strategies that guide students through the four stages of the Learning Challenge
- Engaging lesson plan ideas and classroom activities
- Inspiring examples from Learning Challenges across the world
If you and your students focus on grades alone then rich learning opportunities might be missed along the way. A more rigorous and exploratory path to learning leads to a deeper understanding of concepts. When students experience The Learning Challenge, learning lasts for a lifetime.
"Nottingham shows us how to use generative concepts as focal points for engaging deep student thinking and discourse. His visual model of 'pits and peaks' helps us realize that cooperatively grappling with cognitive conflicts in the pit is necessary to eventually reach new peaks of understanding. Nottingham provides a wealth of strategies, tools and examples to aid the teacher. The vast array of questions to stimulate student thinking is second to none."
H. Lynn Erickson, Educational Consultant
Author, Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction for the Thinking Classroom, 2nd ed.
"Nottingham has provided a clear, concise, and research-based approach to creating cognitively challenging classrooms that captivate, activate, and invigorate learners. This book takes every reader through the learning pit, challenging their prior beliefs, and leads them to construct and consider an innovative way to promote stronger and deeper learning for their students."
John Almarode, Professor of Education & Co-Director of the Center for STEM Education and Outreach
James Madison University, College of Education, Harrisonburg VA
"James Nottingham’s work on Challenging Learning is a critical element of creating Visible Learners. This new series will help teachers hone the necessary pedagogical skills of dialogue, feedback, questioning, and mindset. There’s no better resource to encourage all learners to know and maximize their impact!"
"In The Learning Challenge, James Nottingham shows us how to use generative concepts as focal points for engaging deep student thinking and discourse. His visual model of “pits and peaks” helps us realize that cooperatively grappling with cognitive conflicts in the pit is necessary to eventually reach new peaks of understanding. Nottingham provides a wealth of strategies, tools and examples to aid the teacher. The vast array of questions to stimulate student thinking is second to none."
"In this era of rapid change, cognitive conflict is a constant challenge to be faced. James Nottingham’s Learning Challenge offers learners of all ages a place to be and a process to recognise and engage with. Offering young learners the opportunity to contend with the tension that goes with being 'in the Pit' and think and talk about their own learning is immensely valuable. My experience, working with this concept is that it works!"
"Research into how we learn has continued to highlight the value of desirable difficulties. Wrestling with big ideas, although uncomfortable at times, leads to stronger, deeper learning. However, in the age of accountability, classroom teachers are finding it difficult to set aside time for such wrestling in exchange for more test preparation. James Nottingham has provided a clear, concise, and research-based approach to creating cognitively challenging classrooms that captivate, activate, and invigorate learners. This book takes every reader through the learning pit, challenging their prior beliefs, and leads them to construct and consider a new and innovative way to promote stronger and deeper learning for their students."
"We all recognize that schooling is no longer about imparting information in the hope that it will be put to good use. We know good schooling is about providing students with continuous opportunities to develop the ability and practices to think deeply. Deep learning is hard work. It is complex, complicated, not particularly comfortable at times (see ‘The Pit’). In The Learning Challenge, Nottingham takes us through the four stages of the Learning Challenge, a framework for thinking and learning, in which students learn to step out of their comfort zone so that they can make meaning and connections in order to engage in deep thinking.
Hattie (2016) states that 90% of what is taught in schools is at the surface level. That is not a comforting statistic. In The Learning Challenge, James Nottingham has provided us a clear path for engaging students in deep and meaningful learning complete with student-friendly language, stages and steps, examples, tools and tactics to guide us in engaging students in rigorous learning."
“James Nottingham provides educators with a practical way to get students to challenge their thinking, through questioning and dialogue. The Learning Challenge is jam packed with ideas on how to take a simple concept and turn it into a full-blown learning experience.”
"I have witnessed first-hand in my own district and that of others the power of The Learning Challenge in developing student ownership over their own learning. This book provides the blueprint for empowering students to plunge deep into the learning pit and have the mindset and tools necessary to make them climb out and back in again. This book gives students the understanding and permission to challenge prior knowledge, biases, and misconceptions to substantially enhance learning. I’m thrilled to see a book that guides students towards the ‘voice’ and ‘choice’ they need to advocate for their own learning and to choose the path less traveled by to benefit their learning and that of their peers.”
"The Learning Challenge is an incredibly valuable book for anyone seeking to motivate students, deepen their learning and improve the quality of their thinking. It contains outstanding explanations and examples on every page. I highly recommend this book!"
"The Learning Pit has become one of the most powerful and popular heuristics of learning over the past 10-20 years, and James' new book will become the go-to resource for its fullest explication and application over the next two decades. Though weighted heavily towards classroom practice, it is happily respectful of the many theoretical connections, and both theory and practice support each other beautifully."
"Nottingham’s The Learning Challenge is a seminal piece and should be considered mandatory reading for every educator. The examples included throughout help to paint a clear picture of how teachers can create the conditions to encourage and support students’ deep understanding of complex concepts."