SAPDC and our partners across the Alberta Regional Professional Development Consortia are developing a series of Author/Presenter Deep Dive personal study pages in support of teachers across Alberta and anywhere else who accesses the material. Ultimately it may foster organic conversations with peers, book studies, and planning for online teaching (It’s April 1, 20202 as we post this and we’re all pretty much teaching online) and teaching in our classrooms when our new version of normal arrives.
We will be updating and adding authors over the next several weeks – if you have suggestions for this author’s page or for other authors you’d like to have us “Dive into” please send an e-mail to email@example.com
Primarily recognized for his work and presentation centred around the concept of the Learning Pit and helping students embrace the process of struggling to think through the concepts placed before them James Nottingham is the author of “The Learning Challenge: How to guide your students through the learning pit to achieve deeper understanding”. Available through Chapters and Amazon at $49 (Paperback) and $37.75 (Kindle)
And a co-author of a series of books: (Also available through Chapters and Amazon)
- Learning Challenge Lessons, Secondary English Language Arts: 20 Lessons to Guide Students Through the Learning Pit
- Challenging Learning Through Feedback: How to Get the Type, Tone and Quality of Feedback Right Every Time
- Challenging Mindset: Why a Growth Mindset Makes a Difference in Learning – and What to Do When It Doesn’t
- Learning Challenge Lessons, Primary: 20 Lessons to Guide Young Learners Through the Learning Pit
- Challenging Learning Through Dialogue: Strategies to Engage Your Students and Develop Their Language of Learning
James Nottingham and his team maintain a website at https://www.challenginglearning.com/learning-pit/
James can be followed on Twitter at @JamesNottinghm in addition to the Learning Challenge work James is the founder of the Philosophy for Children website at https://p4c.com/
Quick Dive into James Nottingham’s Learning Challenge – Learning Pit Concept Conversation – James presents a summary with examples and provides some insight into conceptual understanding. As you work through the videos – individually or with a couple of friends jot down some questions, aha moments (Nottingham might call them Eureka moments) or other questions you’d like to explore.
A deeper dive takes us into this 55 minute recording of a full Session with James working through components of “The Learning Challenge”
There are several examples of the Learning Pit poster online, the dry erase poster version runs about $14 dollars and is 24″ by 36″, useful in small group conversations or even classroom settings as you walk through the conversation with a group or full class.
The Learning Challenge book is organized to take you through the entire “Learning Challenge” process. A learning challenge requires a concept, not just facts, but a concept to wrestle through, consider the example in the first video above as James takes the students through a series of questions moving away from perceived facts about “tourist” working toward an understanding of the concept of a “tourist”.
The Chapter Summary for the Learning Challenge Book:
- Chapter 1 – Introduction – A PDF of this chapter is available here
- Chapter 2 – The Learning Challenge in Practice –
- Chapter 3 – The Learning Challenge Culture
- Chapter 4 – Concepts (I really think this chapter will help clarify any teacher’s understanding of concepts and how they can really enhance the learning and conversations in the class)
- Chapter 5 – Cognitive Conflict
- Chapter 6 – Construct Meaning
- Chapter 7 – Consider Your Learning
- Chapter 8 – Mindset Matters – James has some very interesting thoughts around mindset and Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset (This link takes you to a deeper dive 50 minute Google Talks presentation rather than the 14 min TED talk by Carol) conversation. Nottingham and Dweck have joined forces on this conversation for a couple of presenting tours recently
- Chapter 9 – Links and Perspectives (several practical tips in this chapter)
- Chapter 10 – The Learning Challenge in Action – This PDF provides examples of the process.
Excerpt: A rationale for the Learning Challenge
1. We learn more when we step out of our comfort zone.
2. One way to step out of our comfort zone is to find examples of cognitive conflict. This is when two or more ideas exist side by side and yet are in conflict with each other.
3. Examples of cognitive conflict include “stealing is wrong” but “Robin Hood was a good man,” “equality is a good thing” but “not all people need the same thing” and “we should not lie” but “parents lie to their children about Santa, the tooth fairy and so on.”
4. It can be confusing and sometimes frustrating to explore conflicting ideas, but ultimately that investigation can lead to a better understanding of important concepts such as existence, knowledge, right and wrong, thinking, art, community, science, politics and so on.
5. The Learning Challenge describes the journey we can take to explore these important concepts:
Step 1, identify an interesting concept;
Step 2, discover the contradictions and problems within people’s understanding of that concept;
Step 3, find connections and patterns between those ideas and then piece together a more complete definition;
Step 4, reflect on the learning journey and think how this might be applied to other contexts.
6. Stepping out of your comfort zone is what one of the pioneers of educational psychology, Lev Vygotsky, called the zone of proximal development. In the Learning Challenge, this same zone is referred to as the pit. This term was chosen to evoke the feelings of discomfort and frustration many people feel when they are out of their comfort zone.
7. The pit is far less daunting when we are in it with others. That is why the Learning Challenge is a collaborative exercise. We are going to go into the pit together, and then we are going to help each other climb back out with much better ideas than we could have created by ourselves.
Nottingham, James A.. The Learning Challenge: How to Guide Your Students Through the Learning Pit to Achieve Deeper Understanding (Corwin Teaching Essentials) (p. 175). SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.
Book Study Getting Started- Noting that time is critical and the object of this deep dive is to give you a great chance at a focused study of the work, I’d encourage you to find a few partners in your school or region pick up copies of the book and follow the advice of James Nottingham and read and discuss/ponder the following.
As a minimum, I (James Nottingham) would recommend the following sections:
Chapter 1: introduction to the Learning Challenge (PDF linked above)
Sections 3.1, 3.2 and 3.4: the values and ground rules
Sections 5.1, 5.2 and 5.3: the role and rationale of cognitive conflict
Sections 6.1, 6.4 and 6.5: constructing answers and the eureka moment
Sections 8.2 and 8.3: self-efficacy, collective teacher efficacy and praise
This list gives the main sections to read before having a go at a Learning Challenge.
Nottingham, James A.. The Learning Challenge: How to Guide Your Students Through the Learning Pit to Achieve Deeper Understanding (Corwin Teaching Essentials) (pp. 175-176). SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition
Extra Credits – Other Resources