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Arresting anecdotes, hard-edged research and practical advice, woven together with a truly compelling narrative

James Nottingham inspires teachers, leaders and support staff to reflect on and improve their pedagogy and leadership. He often keynotes conferences with thousands of delegates as well as full-day and half-day seminars for groups between 10 and 3000.

His most popular presentations include:

  • Keynote speeches (45 mins to 3 hours)
  • Seminars (2 to 6 hours)
  • Workshops (half- or full-day)

His company, Challenging Learning, is currently working with 198 schools, 41 pre-schools and 11 colleges across 32 projects in Australia, Denmark, Finland, Latvia, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, the UK and the USA. As well as all of these long-term projects, James and his team also offer:

  • Evaluation services
  • Leadership coaching
  • Parent inspiration sessions
  • Demonstration lessons
  • Team teaching and coaching


Areas of Expertise

James Nottingham shares teaching and leadership practices that have the biggest impact on learning progress. These are all based on the most up-to-date and compelling evidence about what helps young people to lead stronger lives. His specialisms include:


Create optimum levels of challenge so that all students make excellent progress.

Key themes can include:

  • Recognising when challenge is needed and how to engage all students in more challenging tasks
  • Questioning techniques to ensure ALL students are challenged appropriately (including the most able)
  • Avoiding the type of praise and rewards systems that get in the way of challenge
  • Using challenge to develop resilience, higher–order thinking skills and a growth mindset

Why James?

  • Creator of the Learning Pit and the Teaching Target Model, James places challenge right at the heart of everything he does in education.
  • Both his first book and his independent company are called “Challenging Learning” because of the importance James gives to challenging all students.
  • James and his team have developed a large range of practical strategies and lesson plans available to those he’s worked with to download and use with students.
Progress & Achievement

Create an emphasis on progress so that all students achieve excellent results.

Key themes can include:

  • How an emphasis on progress can lead to enhanced achievement for ALL students.
  • How research (e.g. Hattie’s Visible Learning and Dweck’s Mindset) can be used to identify activities that will have a high impact on student progress.
  • Why so many forms of praise and reward actually slow student progress – and what can be done to change this.
  • How feedback can be used to maximum effect to enhance student progress and achievement.

Why James?

  • Helping all students to make excellent progress is what drives James and his colleagues. This can be evidenced by his TED talk “Labels Limit Learning” and the animated version of the Learning Pit.
  • James’s close working relationship with professors Carol Dweck and John Hattie are focused on understanding the evidence behind the best strategies for maximising progress.
  • James and his colleagues have developed proven strategies for enriching progress and achievement that are ready to be shared with anyone working in pre-schools, schools, colleges or universities. 
Growth Mindset

Understand and use Carol Dweck’s mindset research to develop students’ grit and determination for learning 

Key themes can include:

  • Developing a deep understanding of Carol Dweck’s research from someone who regularly works with Professor Dweck.
  • Why mindset is so crucial the learning process and what can be done to lead staff, students and parents into a growth mindset.
  • An analysis of current structures in education and how they can be adapted to make them more “growth” orientated.
  • The effect that mindset can have on willingness to try, resilience, independence, persistence and intellectual risk-taking.

Why James?

  • James regularly collaborates with Carol Dweck on conference tours and long-term projects. You can see James interviewing Professor Dweck here and her TED presentation that James set up and introduced here (now viewed more than 3million times)
  • James and his colleagues have developed a range of excellent strategies for developing a growth mindset. As Professor Dweck wrote about James’s first book, Challenging Learning: “An inspirational guide to creating lessons that are thought-provoking and meaningful, and at the same time theoretically sound.”
  • Having used Mindset strategies as a teacher, leader and father – and more recently as the founder of 6 companies in 4 countries, James has a wealth of experience to share.
Visible Learning

Understand the truths (and debunk the myths) about John Hattie’s Visible Learning research, and discover the best ways to improve learning for all.

Key themes can include:

  • The key points from Hattie’s analysis of more than 1200 meta-analyses and 65,000 studies in education.
  • An insight into why many popular strategies for improving education are wide of the mark and – by contrast – which strategies will actually help raise attainment and improve progress.
  • A guide to the best places to start with Visible Learning from someone who works very closely with John Hattie.
  • How to use Visible Learning to identify and respond to the students falling through the net.

Why James?

  • James works closely with John Hattie, the researcher behind Visible Learning. In the last few years, they have designed and delivered conferences together in Australia, the UK, the USA, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
  • James’s company has the exclusive licence for Visible Learning in Scandinavia. As such, James and his colleagues are in the perfect position to speak with integrity, insight and experience from very close to the research source.
  • James has an unsurpassed reputation for translating Hattie’s Visible Learning research into practical strategies for learning. As a recent delegate in Stockholm remarked: “I’ve heard people talk about Visible Learning before but it wasn’t until I heard James Nottingham that I actually understood it and knew what to do next. Simply brilliant!”

Increase the quality and impact of feedback from staff to students and from students to themselves

Key themes can include:

  • An insight into the research evidence about feedback: what works, what doesn’t, and why students’ own assessment capabilities are more powerful than any other form of feedback.
  • Some of the best strategies to help students ask the 3 key feedback questions: what am I learning; how much progress have I made; and what should I do next?
  • How to make assessment, feedback and marking policies and procedures really work for all staff and students.
  • Getting the timing, tone, quantity and quality of feedback right every time.

Why James?

  • James has focused much of his energies in the last decade on understanding feedback and identifying the best ways to use feedback to its full effect.
  • James and his team have created strategies and guidance for developing the optimal conditions and approaches to feedback.
  • Having frequently keynoted the same conferences as Shirley Clark, Dylan Wiliam, John Hattie, Robert Marzano and others, James is at the forefront of developments in feedback and formative assessment.
Learning Pit

Gain a deep understanding of the theory and strategies behind the world-renowned Learning Challenge (also known as The Pit) from its creator, James Nottingham.

Key themes can include:

  • How the Learning Challenge was created and what it can do to develop dialogue, thinking skills, metacognition and collaborative approaches to learning.
  • Questioning techniques for getting students “into the pit” and strategies to teach students for “climbing out of the pit.”
  • How schools around the world have used the Learning Challenge as a structure for challenge and inquiry. Examples can be seen here.
  • The ways in which the Learning Challenge can be used to develop a growth mindset; enhance student motivation and resilience; and how it links with the SOLO taxonomy as well as metacognitive and higher order thinking skills.

Why James?

  • James created the Learning Challenge! He was filmed by the BBC in 1999 using the approach and has since used it with students of all ages around the world.
  • James would be delighted to demonstrate the Learning Challenge in action with any students of any age. Prior examples can be seen here
  • James has written about the Learning Challenge in many books, journals and research papers. The best starting point is here.

Understand how to use P4C to develop students’ critical, creative, collaborative and caring thinking habits 

Key themes can include:

1)    How Philosophy for Children is one of the very best ways to develop dialogue, thinking skills, metacognition and collaborative approaches to learning.

2)    The best questioning and facilitation techniques to ensure P4C supports students’ everyday learning.

3)    A guide to resources and inquiry structures so that P4C is relevant for students of all ages. This can include a complimentary subscription to, the international resource and collaboration site for P4C.

4)    The ways in which P4C can be used to develop a growth mindset; enhance student motivation and resilience; and how it links with the SOLO taxonomy as well as metacognitive and higher order thinking skills.

Why James?

a)    James has been practising P4C since 1992 – first as a teacher then as founder of a multi-million pound social regeneration project using P4C as a catalyst for change. He is now a SAPERE ( trainer and co-Director of

b)    James appeared in a BBC documentary about P4C in 1999 and has since introduced the approach to tens of thousands of teachers and support staff around the world.

c)    James would be happy to demonstrate the approach working with any group of students, having done so on numerous occasions around the world with students aged 3-19. See clips here.

Leadership & Strategy

Develop leadership that generates focus, energy and commitment from everyone

Key themes can include:

  • How to align everyone towards a common goal so that everyone in the organisation (school/pre-school/college/municipality) works smarter (rather than harder).
  • Where to focus energy and resources so that everyone is focused on growth and learning.
  • How to deal with resistance, get everyone speaking with one mind and one voice, plan powerfully and grow leadership capacity.
  • Developing a leadership toolkit so that the balance between leadership and event management is achieved with great quality.

Why James?

  • James understands leadership. He has been a leader of small schools/pre-schools as well as large organisations and led professionals working with students aged 3-19.
  • James is now leader of an international consultancy comprising 7 companies in 5 countries, all of which he has grown from scratch.
  • James believes that leadership is a disposition as much as a position, and is able to show teachers how to be leaders of learning, principals how to be better leaders, and organisations how to develop student leadership.

James's best known work is on The Learning Pit. Having introduced it to his students in the late 1990s, the model can now be seen in thousands of classrooms and in more than 30 published books, including James's original text, Challenging Learning, and in his more recent title, The Learning Challenge: How to Guide Students Through the Learning Pit.

Based on the values of Philosophy for Children (P4C), the Learning Pit develops resilience; strengthens learning; builds a language of learning; and contributes towards self-efficacy and wisdom. To find out more, click here.