The Learning Pit
February 20, 2023
From James Nottingham's Learning Pit
The Learning Pit theory is a powerful tool that can help students develop a growth mindset and take ownership of their learning. It can also help parents understand the process of learning and the role of teachers in supporting their children's growth. In this post, I'll help explain why this theory is so important, why students need strategies for getting out of the pit, and how I can help.
What is the Learning Pit?
The Learning Pit theory was developed by James Nottingham, a former teacher, and school principal. The theory suggests that learning is like a journey, and students often encounter challenges or obstacles that can make them feel stuck or frustrated. Nottingham visualizes this journey as a pit, and students who are struggling with a difficult task are said to be "in the pit."
According to Nottingham, being in the pit is a natural part of the learning process. It's where students engage in deep thinking, critical reflection, and problem-solving. However, it's important to note that students can get stuck in the pit and feel overwhelmed, discouraged, or even give up on the task. As a teacher with many years in the classroom, it's not always obvious when a child is in the pit. However, when a teacher observes that this might be the case, it's so important for us to provide the student with strategies for getting out! We don't want our kiddos staying there, as it can hinder their ability to perform at their capacity in the classroom. I've seen such a difference in my students once they can recognize they are in the pit, and use their strategies to get out.
Why is the Learning Pit theory important?
The Learning Pit theory is essential because it helps students develop a growth mindset, which is the belief that their abilities can be developed through practice and using their toolbox of skills. When students understand that getting stuck in the pit is a normal part of the learning process, they are more likely to persevere, learn from their mistakes, and take risks, instead of getting frustrated. Dig into that toolbox!
Additionally, the Learning Pit theory helps teachers understand the importance of providing students with strategies for getting out of the pit. By giving students the tools they need to overcome challenges, teachers can help students build confidence, resilience, and a love for learning. Not every student is going to use the same tools, nor is every student getting a variety of tools to use within every classroom. I want to make sure students and parents are aware of how they can help, if none is being given.
Strategies for getting out of the pit
As a parent, you can support your child's learning by helping them understand the Learning Pit theory and providing them with strategies for getting out of the pit. Here are a few ideas:
Break the task down into smaller steps: Sometimes, students get stuck in the pit because they feel overwhelmed by the task at hand. Encourage your child to break the task down into smaller, more manageable steps.
Take a break: Sometimes, students need to step away from the task for a few minutes to clear their minds and refocus. Encourage your child to take a break, go for a walk, or engage in a different activity for a little while.
Ask for help: Encourage your child to ask their teacher, a tutor, or a friend for help when they get stuck. Sometimes, a fresh perspective can help them see the task in a new light.
Try a different approach: If your child has been trying the same approach to a task without success, encourage them to try a different approach. They might need to approach the task from a different angle or try a new strategy.
The Learning Pit theory is a powerful tool that can help students develop a growth mindset and take ownership of their learning. As a parent, you can support your child's learning by helping them understand the theory and providing them with strategies for getting out of the pit. Remember, getting stuck in the pit is a natural part of the learning process, and with the right tools and support, your child can overcome challenges and succeed in their learning journey. If you need further help in providing your child the skills and strategies for getting out of the pit, please reach out!