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Learning Pit Academy

The Learning Pit Reassures Learners

The Learning Pit – and its broader lesson-planning framework, the Learning Challenge –reassures students on their learning journey. It offers students encouragement when they are struggling; shows how normal it is to be confused or frustrated when learning something new; and illustrates the steps that can be taken to improve learning outcomes.

The Learning Pit Encourages People to Step Out of Their Comfort Zone

The Learning Challenge is needed because so many students avoid challenge or give up at the first signs of struggle. In a systematic review of 18 studies about the effects of giving students control over their learning, Abbey Karich and her colleagues found that most people choose tasks that are well within their capabilities so as not to risk failure (Karich, Burns & Maki, 2014). Those who do step out of their comfort zone are often disheartened by setbacks or worried about looking silly in front of others. These anxieties can be compounded by the notions that a) it isn’t normal to struggle (when in fact it is); and that b) those who struggle will never be successful (whereas the contrary is true – success in any field of endeavour typically involves overcoming difficulties and disappointments).

By being honest about these difficulties and frustrations – as well as offering strategies that can be used to overcome such obstacles – the Learning Challenge can help to reverse the trend of students staying within their comfort zone. Indeed, tens of thousands of educators in schools across the world are already using images of the Learning Pit to illustrate the likely sequence of events when learning something new; teachers are also using the Learning Challenge framework to plan lessons that place desirable difficulties at the heart of student engagement.


Preparation Module: Creating Your Baseline

This module will help you to:

  • create a baseline to compare to when tracking the outcomes of this academy
  • collect examples of student voice as a central focus for your baseline
  • create an account and set up your academy portfolio

Module One: Introducing the Learning Pit the Learning Challenge to Your Students

This module will help you to:

  • understand some of the ways the Learning Pit can be used to support student learning
  • identify the ways in which the Learning Pit connects with educational theory and research
  • understand the terminology associated with the Learning Pit and Learning Challenge
  • introduce the Learning Pit to your students clearly and accurately
  • use a prepared lesson to familiarise your students with the four stages of the Learning Challenge

Module Two: Creating a Culture of Challenge, Reasoning, and Respect

This module will help you to create a Learning Challenge culture in which your students:

  • respond positively to tasks and ideas that are challenging
  • demonstrate open-mindedness towards alternative explanations and viewpoints
  • offer reasons and examples to support their thinking using a shared language for learning
  • seek clarification and check assumptions so as to better understand others
  • show an interest in other people by listening carefully and connecting to their ideas

Module Three: Learning How to Identify Important Concepts From Across the Curriculum

This module will help you and your students to:

  • know what a concept is and how to recognise one
  • identify the most important concepts from across the curriculum
  • draw out concepts from images and texts
  • create a wide range of thought-provoking questions that can be used as the starting point for questioning sequences that take everybody into the Learning Pit
  • think about the criteria that can be used to select the ‘best’ questions

Module Four: Using Cognitive Conflict to Extend Your Students' Thinking

This module will help you to create cognitive conflict in the minds of your students so that they:

  • go beyond their first answer by considering alternative factors and possibilities
  • avoid snap judgements, preferring instead to offer more nuanced, carefully considered answers
  • examine ambiguity so as to better understand complexity
  • recognise when they are in a state of cognitive conflict and understand why this can be beneficial to their learning

Module Five: Developing Your Students' Repertoire of Problem-Solving Strategies

This module will help you teach your students to:

  • use critical thinking to analyse ideas
  • identify the key features and characteristics of important concepts
  • create imaginative solutions and responses to problems
  • compare, contrast and sequence information more effectively
  • construct coherent lines of reasoning collaboratively as well as individually

Module Six: Extending Your Adaptation of the Learning Pit and the Learning Challenge

This module will help you to:

  • make good use of the Learning Pit to encourage your students into a growth mindset
  • connect the Learning Pit with the SOLO Taxonomy to deepen your understanding of both models
  • adapt the use of the Learning Pit to better support the needs of all students
  • lead the introduction and implementation of the Learning Pit & Learning Challenge across your school
  • move from using the exemplar lessons in the Learning Challenge books to creating your own examples that are tailor-made for your students

Reflection Module: Identifying Impact and Next Steps

This module will help you to:

  • compare current student learning to the baseline to determine impact
  • reflect on student progress and contributing factors
  • determine next steps

Course Reader

The Learning Challenge: Guiding Students Through the Learning Pit
By James Nottingham (2017)

Also available in these languages:

DanishLæringsudfordringen (2017) from Dafolo
DutchDe Leeruitdaging (2018) from Bazalt
Swedish Utmaningsmodellen (2017) from NoK

Further Reading

James Nottingham has also written this concise guide on the same topic:

The Learning Pit
By James Nottingham (2020)

Also available in these languages:

US English

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