Guiding Pupils Through the Learning Pit

The Learning Pit is one of the most widely used models for teaching to emerge in the last 20
years. It was created by James Nottingham, one of our conference speakers.
The purpose of the Learning Pit is to encourage pupils to more willingly step out of their
comfort zone. When they do so – when they go beyond their current knowledge,
understanding and abilities – they are likely to make progress. Unfortunately, however, many
pupils resist taking this step for fear of looking foolish in front of their peers. It is therefore
important to create the ethos in which challenge is not just permitted but preferred. The
Learning Pit can make a positive contribution towards this.

Key points of the session will include:

  • Challenge is necessary for learning. It causes a ‘stirring of thinking’ (Vygotsky, 1978),
    leads to a boost in self-efficacy (Ciftci & Yildiz, 2019), and ensures lessons ‘stick’
    (Roediger et al., 2011).
  • However, challenge also causes a decrease in performance and progress
    (Willingham, 2021). Pupils therefore need to believe in the long-term benefits of
    challenge before they will willingly engage. Merely telling them to have a go rarely
  • Adjustments are therefore needed to create better habits and routines that will
    encourage intellectual risk taking.

James Nottingham