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This is episode #36 with the creator of The Learning Pit®,[i] a sought-after keynote speaker and author of 9 books about teaching, learning and leadership, James Nottingham,[ii] from Northumberland, UK. Within a few minutes of posting about this interview on my social media channels, I had good friends who are deeply invested in teaching and learning from around the world, message me about how excited they were to hear this interview. You can listen to the interview here, or watch the visuals on YouTube. It’s not surprising that The Swedish Teaching Union describes James as “one of the most talked about names in the world of school development.”

James’ most recent book, Challenging Learning (2017) describes the theory and practice of guiding students through the “Learning Pit” encouraging them to step out of their comfort zone. This practical book is filled with ideas for making lessons engaging, thought provoking and collaborative.

Welcome James! Thanks, so much for taking the time to be here today all the way from the UK.

Q1: James, we all know that our educational system worldwide has been under a microscope of discussion for transformation the past few years and that some countries that you are working with are leading in this transformation over others. Just a note, here in Arizona, USA, we are ranked near the bottom[iii] which is scary for me as a parent, but it motivates me to want to do more. Where did your vision to improve education begin and did you ever imagine that you would be creating such an impact?

Q2: I dove right into your book, Challenging Learning,[iv] this weekend, and should have known from the title that I would be drawn in as challenge is actually one of my Top 5 values. I don’t work well without it and now have a completely different perspective as to why. Can you explain a bit more about how you Challenge Learning with The Learning Pit®?

Q3: Why is challenging students “to question, to wonder, to challenge together”[v] such an important life skill? How does this improve their self-esteem, help them to become more self-reliant and achieve more?

Q4: I saw your TEDx about Labels that Limit Learning[vi] and it did surprise me as I thought we are on track over here with our 2 girls, implementing Growth Mindset now, being careful not to tell them they are “so smart” (Carol Dweck) and now I see I’m going down the wrong path with labels even with ones I would think were positive. I often say “just do your best” (with school or sports) not thinking at all that they might translate for them into “they must be THE best” dropping their expectation. Can you explain the research by Jacquelynne Eccles about how labels can lower expectation and impact the effort someone will put into something?

Q5: I’ve heard before that we always remember the people in our lives who have challenged us to “think” differently or think at all. And I had some early influencers who impacted me this way, and from reading your book, I can see that you have also.  Can you share some of your early influencers and how you went from idea to action with the Ready, Aim, Fire concept with your work? (Clay Shirky/Michael Fullan-who was the Dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Toronto when I was in teacher’s college in the late 1990s)?

Q6: What is your vision with your company Challenging Learning and The Learning Pit® with such a broad audience and staff in 6 countries. Where are you going with this vision in the next few years?

Q7: Is there anything else that you think is important that I might have missed?






[v] James Nottingham, Learning Challenge (Learning Pit)