Excellence in Post 16 Education

16 - 19 & Adult

Supporting Colleges

James Nottingham brings together the most up-to-date research and turns it into accessible, proven strategies for teaching and learning for Post-16, Vocational, Further and Higher Education students. 

James offers many types of professional development ranging from keynote speeches to half-day and full-day workshops; demonstration lessons to team-teaching and coaching; and from study tours to in-college consultancy.

His company’s most effective support is the Challenging Learning Process. This brings together the best resources, research and practice to help all staff and students make outstanding progress in learning. You can find out more about the process they use at ChallengingLearning.com.

  • I want to go and put all my new skills into practice. This has been extremely helpful and useful in my role and I have learnt so much.


  • Brilliant!! Everyone should complete the courses, it would revolutionise how we teach in the college!

    Lecturer, Northern Ireland

    Northern Ireland
  • From the first break and throughout the day I got e-mails and SMS from the staff about having an amazing day. You really made their day.

    Oslo Adult Education Centre

    Sinsen, Norway
  • Put simply, the Teaching Thinking module was the best staff development I have ever had in 17 years of teaching. Very motivating and very useful

    Lecturer, Northern Ireland

  • "There is more sharing of good practice taking place … which has started to break down the 'closed door' syndrome that surrounded the classroom. It has enabled the college to introduce peer observation.  The CLP Process has increased the enthusiasm of staff to look at their classroom practices; they are more open about asking for help; have become more reflective in their practice and have 'demanded' more."

    QI leader

    Northern Ireland
  • The presentations were really engaging, challenging and positive. We were shown the value of personalised learning, questioning and feedback - all backed up with pertinent, applicable activities & resources. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will use it to develop my teaching.

    Henrik Pedersen, College Lecturer

  • “Challenging Learning’s work at our school is leading to the most significant and ongoing positive change that I have witnessed in my 30 years in education. As part of this on-going development, we held a parent information night that is still talked about two years later. We all now have a different perspective on learning and the vital role we can play in developing successful learners.”

    George Telford, Principal


    Areas of Expertise

    Here are the topics offered by James and his team at Challenging Learning. A keynote can cover highlights of 1-2 themes; a day’s presentation can cover 1-2 in depth or highlights of 3-4; and the many long-term projects James runs tend to cover them all!

    Challenging Learning

    Ensuring all students enjoy challenge and develop learning resilience 

    A common worry amongst educators is that some students are difficult to engage, and many more give up when faced with difficulty. Finding ways to counteract this has been one of the core elements in our work at Challenging Learning (hence our name!) We have developed models and strategies that will help you to ensure ALL students are challenged appropriately, leading to higher levels of engagement and progress.

    Connected topics: Dweck Mindset; Effective Questioning; Feedback; Student Engagement; Student Self-Assessment; Teaching Thinking; Visible Learning

    Creative & Entrepreneurial Thinking

    Taking the initiative and thinking in new ways

    The ability to see things from different perspectives, and suggest solutions to complex problems are key skills in the workplace today, putting creative thinking at the heart of the successful entrepreneur. Our evidence-based methods, developed with Post 16 & Adult Education centres around the world, can help you help your students develop this increasingly important attitude to lifelong learning.  

    Connected topics: Challenging Learning; Dweck's Mindset; Effective Questioning; Leading Learning; Teaching Thinking


    Dweck's Mindset

    Developing a Growth Mindset in all staff and students

    Carol Dweck is the world’s leading researcher on what motivates students and the types of thinking and feedback that promote better learning. Every 2-3 years, we host and co-present conferences in Europe alongside Professor Dweck. This puts us in a perfect position to help you understand Dweck’s Mindset research so that you can develop your students’ resilience, independence, persistence and intellectual risk-taking. 

    Connected topics: Challenging Learning; Feedback; Leading Learning; Peer Observation; Student Self-Assessment; Teaching Thinking; Visible Learning


    Effective Questioning

    Increasing challenge and deepening learning through effective questioning

    Learn the questioning techniques that can increase challenge and deepen understanding, encouraging students to think more critically about their learning.  Find out ways to develop better reasoning and more thoughtful responses, so that every interaction with your students leads to improved achievement and progress.  Develop your questioning skills, and discover why there is no such thing as a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ question!

    Connected topics: Challenging Learning; Creative & Entrepreneurial Thinking; Feedback; Student Engagement & Motivation; Student Self Assessment; Teaching Thinking; Visible Learning


    Increasing the quality and impact of the feedback you give your students

    According to researchers such as Dylan Wiliam and John Hattie, feedback can double the rate of progress students make. Yet how many colleges are actually achieving these gains? In fact, some feedback can actually have negative effects on student learning!  In response to this, we have developed a range of strategies that will ensure your written and verbal feedback is effective, timely, credible, and – perhaps most crucially - acted upon! 

    Connected topics: Challenging Learning; Dweck's Mindset; Effective Questioning; Peer Observation; Student Self-Assessment; Teaching Thinking; Visible Learning

    Leading Learning

    Informed decision-making at every level of the profession

    If you want to know that what you are doing is making a difference, then make decisions based on evidence.  At every level of the organisation; the college, school, department or classroom, Leading Learning helps you develop the skills you need to make informed choices that improve outcomes for students.  We show you what evidence to collect, where to collect it, and how to interpret it, so you can discover not only what is working in your practice, but what works best. Debriefing this learning with fellow professionals in your organisation can promote new thinking, and support focussed action planning. 

    Connected topics: Peer Observation; Shared Visioning & Strategic Planning; Teaching Thinking; Visible Learning

    Peer Observation

    Practitioners working together to improve teaching and learning

    By developing skills in peer observation you can unlock your own – and others’ - potential. John Hattie’s research shows us that teachers talking together about their practice has a significant impact on outcomes for students.  Working together with another practitioner you will learn the questioning techniques and facilitation strategies that form the basis of professional learning conversations about practice.  Discover how to engage with other practitioners to think critically about pedagogy; setting targets, planning learning and reviewing progress, for the ultimate benefit of student learning.

    Connected topics: Dweck's Mindset; Effective Questioning; Feedback; Leading Learning; Shared Visioning & Strategic Planning; Teaching Thinking

    Shared Visioning and Strategic Planning

    Developing leadership to generate focus, energy and commitment from everyone in your organisation 

    Choosing to lead rather than simply manage has dramatic implications for the success of your college. We can show you how to balance your leadership-management seesaw; where to place your energy to sustain growth and learning; and how to align everyone behind a common vision/goal. We will also show you how to deal with resistance, speak with one mind and one voice, plan powerfully and grow leadership capacity. You will take away a leadership toolkit to put into practice immediately.

    Connected topics: Leading Learning; Peer Observation; Visible Learning

    Student Engagement and Motivation

    Inspiring and motivating all students

    We all try to motivate and inspire our students. Yet sometimes our strategies backfire. Popular methods of praise, prize-giving, motivational rewards, feedback and groupings actually have the opposite effect and, in the long-term, turn students off learning! Building on the most credible and up-to-date research, we can show you ways to identify what really works and what doesn’t; and how to plan learning experiences that really do enhance intrinsic motivation and self-efficacy in all students.

    Connected topics: Challenging Learning; Creative & Entrepreneurial Thinking; Dweck Mindsets; Effective Questioning; Feedback; Student Self-Assessment; Teaching Thinking

    Student Self Assessment

    Teaching your students how to give themselves accurate feedback

    Research from Hattie, Black & Wiliam, Lysakowski & Walberg, and others has shown that one of the best ways to help students make progress is to teach them how to be assessment capable. This improves understanding and engagement, increases the quality of independent thought, and enhances learning environments. We can show you how to create these positive outcomes so that all your students are able to accurately identify for themselves what they are trying to achieve, how much progress they have made so far, and what learning steps they could take next.  

    Connected topics: Challenging Learning; Dweck's Mindset; Feedback; Student Engagement & Motivation; Teaching Thinking; Visible Learning

    Teaching Thinking

    Teaching students to be more independent thinkers and learners

    Everyone can be taught to be a better thinker. ‘Better’ in terms of being more effective, ethical, social, creative and judicious. With improved thinking, we may become more successful learners, more thoughtful citizens and more confident, independent people. We have a highly experienced team who have trained in, and can share with you a range of ways to improve the thinking and reasoning skills that are essential in preparing for Further and Higher Level study and the workplace today.

    Connected topics: Challenging Learning; Creative & Entrepreneurial Thinking; Dweck's Mindset; Effective Questioning; Feedback; Student Engagement & Motivation; Student Self-Assessment; Visible Learning

    Visible Learning

    We are the only company in Scandinavia working directly with John Hattie. As such, we are uniquely positioned to help you understand the truths (and myths) about his research

    Visible Learning plus is an in-depth change model of professional learning and development. It is based on the principles of Visible Learning that have developed from John Hattie’s research. Together with Professor Hattie, we manage long-term development processes that are currently being used with gymnasium, videregående, and sprogcenter staff in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. We also offer shorter courses in Visible Learning, all accredited and signed by John Hattie.

    Connected topics: Challenging Learning; Dweck's Mindset; Effective Questioning; Feedback; Leading Learning; Shared Visioning; Student Self-Assessment; Teaching Thinking



    Recommended Reading

    The Learning Challenge

    By James Nottingham (2017)

    The Learning Challenge describes the theory and practice of guiding students through the ‘Learning Pit’. It is a practical book filled with ideas for making lessons engaging, thought provoking and collaborative.


    This book includes so many worthwhile processes to invoke the various stages of learning, to show the connections between these stages, and to identify evidence of impact from techniques that have been tried and tested in many contexts around the world by James Nottingham and his team. It is a pleasure reading a book that puts the challenge back into learning.

    John Hattie, 2017

    Challenging Learning Through Feedback

    By James Nottingham and Jill Nottingham (2017)

    It is well known that feedback is one of the most powerful influences on student achievement. And yet 32% of the studies examined by Kluger and DeNisi (1996) show a negative effect on learning! This book shows you how to avoid all those negative factors so that the type, tone and quality of feedback are fruitful every time.


    This was a thought provoking read and one I will reference over and over again. The authors have created a thorough reference for all teachers working to make their feedback impact learning, not only student learning, but their own. This will be a valuable reference for educators for years to come. I think that this reaches beyond classroom walls and will also help administrators model feedback for teachers and make an impact on the growth of student achievement.

    Katina Keener, Elementary Principal Hayes, VA

    Challenging Learning Through Dialogue

    By James Nottingham, Jill Nottingham and Martin Renton (2017)

    This book shares some of the best ways to make lessons more interactive, thought-provoking and engaging. It explains the most successful strategies for using dialogue to move students from surface learning to deep learning, and for teachers to support the learning process through instant feedback, guidance and stimulation for learners.



    I might sound a bit too excited, but that is because the book manages to point out problematic issues in teaching and to give solutions and strategies to act on them. I give my warmest recommendation to teachers that want to focus more on good dialogues in the classroom.

    Kristian Nøhr Jensen, quoted in Folkeskolen.dk

    Challenging Learning

    By James Nottingham (2010) and (2nd Ed., 2016)

    The original book by James Nottingham is now widely regarded as a seminal text for all educators wanting to engage, challenge and inspire all students. Praise for the book includes: “An inspirational guide to creating lessons that are thought-provoking and meaningful, and at the same time theoretically sound” (Carol Dweck, 2010) and “James Nottingham has the skills of explaining the complex in a way which is accessible and inviting. He is challenging yet encouraging. The examples of how it could be and the insights into what success looks like will leave the reader wanting to do things differently without a bag of guilt to weigh them down. ‘Challenging Learning’ works at every level.” (Mick Waters, President of the Curriculum Foundation)



    Through the use of rich examples of classroom interactions, this book offers strategies that will help pupils to produce their own thoughtful conclusions, develop their own concepts, examine logic and remain open to alternatives. Highlights include: effective teaching strategies including FACTS, the Teaching Target Model and the Learning Pit Models; up-to-date research and theory from leading experts; practical suggestions and principles to help you design and develop your own lessons. Not simply for teachers, this book has relevance for all those who work with children. Jargon-free and accessible, it will be relevant and valuable for all.

    Sarah Brew, Parents in Touch