Wednesday / July 24

The Learning Challenge: Q&A with James Nottingham

Thank you to so many people who joined us for our Corwin webinar on The Learning Challenge: How to Make the Most of the Learning Pit with James Nottingham. If you missed it, that’s alright! You can still watch the recording here. We received so many questions at the end of the webinar that we didn’t have time to answer them all. So, we wanted to take this time to answer them now for you!

I’ve been reading much about SOLO taxonomy (Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes) and it seems there are some overlaps with the learning pit. Would that be something to connect in the classroom? Or is this a wrong way of understanding?

SOLO and the Learning Challenge connect very well together! Section 9.1 in The Learning Challenge covers this in depth. Here’s our diagram of how the SOLO taxonomy maps onto the Learning Challenge, to give you a better idea:


I would assume that one’s duration in the pit is dependent upon a number of factors: the complexity of the content to be learned, individual learner factors, etc. Is that assumption correct?

Absolutely spot on! Everyone is going to have a different experience in the learning pit. That’s why we encourage students who have already achieved their “Eureka” moments to help others who are still in the pit.

Cognitive conflict seems to be a constructive way of reviewing the “fake news” or media in general. The construct phase seems to be the equivalent of synthesizing information. Would you agree that “construct” is a synthesis of ideas?

Yes, this is a good summary. In fact, we created a free lesson plan on How to Teach Your Students About Fake News using the Learning Challenge framework. Download it here!

Exiting the pit at one point in our learning journey doesn’t mean a student won’t find themselves back in the pit at some point in time. Correct?

Yes, correct. Deep learning could be seen as a series of pits, ultimately leading to a more nuanced and complex understanding of a concept.

Could you give math related examples for the concept of the pit? Learning fractions, Negative numbers, or something like that… guess the key would be taking students back to the conceptual thinking of math there and less procedural (assuming they’re having difficulty)?

Shape, odd numbers, value, continuous, equal, infinite, zero, number, and size all work well with the Learning Challenge. We’re also working on a new book coming out with Corwin next year: Learning Challenge Lessons in Secondary Mathematics. This will cover lesson ideas and challenges to get students into and out of the pit on the following themes:

  • Financial literacy
  • Budgeting
  • Evaluating data
  • Statistics
  • Statistical experiments
  • Area
  • Problem solving

What book are you working on now? What part is coming into focus next time?

I am writing Challenging Learning Through Mindset to coincide with my next conference tour with Carol Dweck in August. If invited to speak at another Corwin webinar, I would be keen to run something from my recent book, Challenging Learning Through Feedback.

When will the Norwegian translation be published?

Dafolo are publishing the Norwegian texts. Styrk læringen gjennom dialog is out now. Styrk læringen gjennom feedback will be out in time for August. The Learning Challenge (Norsk title yet to be decided) will be out before the end of the year.

I am currently reading three of your books. My question is what are YOU reading now?

Wow – three of my books! How lovely. Thank you. For work, I am reading Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed; for play, I am reading The Beggar Thief by Oliver Pötzsch; with my children, we are working our way through the Harry Potter series.


For more information on The Learning Challenge, watch this brief video with James:

Editorial Note: The Learning Challenge is the name of the four-step process by James Nottingham, outlined in The Learning Challenge © 2017. The “learning pit” in this context refers to stage two of the Learning Challenge process, and is based on the Learning Pit Model of Jim Butler and John Edwards, as outlined in Schools That Deliver by John Edwards and Bill Martin © 2016.

Got more questions for James? Please email them to Ariel Curry.

Written by

Ariel is the Acquisitions Editor for Teaching Methods at Corwin, and editor of Corwin Connect. When not working, you can usually find Ariel doing yoga at the beach, reading with a glass of wine, or writing a book review on her blog, One Little Library.

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