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Martin Renton

Northumberland, UK

Director of Consultancy and Evaluations

About Martin

TEDx Talk - what did we learn today?


Martin Renton is Challenging Learning's Director of Consultancy and Evaluations. He is a highly sought-after keynote speaker, leader, facilitator and coach.

Martin’s excellent reputation is well earned. His core belief that professional development is not a ‘quick fix’ but a deep process of change has led to some very powerful effects in schools and colleges around the world. Teachers and leaders who have worked with Martin over an extended period of time refer to increased engagement, motivation and progress for all students.

Martin ensures that all our Challenging Learning trainers blend theories of learning with active tools for the classroom, giving teachers and leaders the opportunities to put into practice new skills and approaches. The effect can be seen most dramatically in our long-term projects around the world.  The most significant of these are in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Isle of Man, Northern Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

Martin’s knowledge of pedagogy and leadership is borne out of his experiences in schools and colleges as a teacher, leader, consultant and coach.  His early experiences as a nanny (2-9 year olds), then as a teacher and leader in middle schools (9-13 year olds), secondary schools (11-18 year olds) and colleges (16+) have given him a comprehensive insight into how people learn from the age of 2–adulthood. Martin uses these insights to challenge, inspire and engage his audiences.

With a Masters Degree in Educational Research from Newcastle University, Martin works alongside the Challenging Learning evaluation team to integrate evaluation processes into all of our long-term projects. These processes form a central part of our reporting and monitoring, giving us and the schools we work with the data we need to achieve excellent outcomes together.  

Martin is perhaps best known for his work with FE Colleges (vocational, adult and further education). Having set up the celebrated Think-FE approach, he now leads a team dedicated to Teaching Thinking in post 16. This approach has proven time and again to improve the thinking skills and achievements of young adults preparing for the world of work or return to education. Indeed, his work in Northern Ireland over the last 10 years has been highlighted by the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) as a key factor in the development of outstanding strategic professional development in Northern Ireland:

“Martin Renton 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.”   (Head of Quality Improvement, FE College, Northern Ireland)

While Think-FE forms the basis of Challenging Learning’s post-16 provision for long-term projects, at the heart of Martin’s training are the core messages of independent thinking, dialogue and questioning for challenge.  These core elements appear in his keynotes and workshops on Challenging Learning, Visible Learning, Feedback and Assessment for Learning.

His keynotes, often on the theme of a common language for learning, focus on the need for the development of Attitudes, Skills and Knowledge (ASK) to make effective progress.  Recent feedback from his conferences listed Martin as one of the 5 most inspiring influences in education. As well as headlining national and international conferences, Martin often presents alongside such recognised speakers as Prof. John Hattie, Prof. Sugatra Mitra, Prof. Carol Dweck, James Nottingham and Simon Weston OBE.

Currently Martin is writing many of the books in our Challenging Learning series.  He is principal author of Challenging Learning Through Questioning and Challenging Learning Through Coaching, he is also co-author of Challenging Learning Through Dialogue.

Martin has worked on projects as diverse as Building Schools for the Future with Sheffield University, and Online Thinking Skills for BBC Education.  His work can be seen in regular features for Creative Teaching and Learning magazine and on the programme Intelligent Learning (available as a DVD from Imaginative Minds Ltd).

Martin is also trained in the historic craft of dry stone walling and still labours under the impression that he can play the guitar. Despite his obsession with teaching Thinking Skills through Music and working on a book of the same name, no-one has yet mistaken him for Eric Clapton.


With many varied experiences in working with pre-school age children, both inside and outside of the formal education setting, Martin offers the following topics for pre-schools:

  • Building Self-Efficacy in Young Children

  • Challenging Learning

  • Developing a Growth Mindset

  • Feedback for Pre-Schools

  • Philosophy for Children (P4C)

  • Teaching Thinking & Creativity

  • Visible Learning for Pre-Schools

  • Vision and Strategy

Learn more about these topics here

With many years experience as a teacher, leader and consultant, Martin brings fresh insight to classroom practice and whole school development, modelling his approaches at every step.  Described as inspirational, thought-provoking and challenging, Martin provides active support for schools in developing:

  • Assessment capable learners

  • Challenge

  • Creative Approaches to Learning

  • Effective Questioning

  • Feedback and assessment

  • Growth Mindsets

  • Leading Learning

  • Motivation & self-efficacy
  • Philosophy for Children (P4C)

  • Progress and achievement

  • Surface to deep: Dialogue with your students
  • Teaching Thinking

  • Visible Learning

  • Vision and strategy

Learn more about these topics here

Martin is Challenging Learning’s specialist in post-16 colleges and adult learning centres around the world.  Through his work in Teaching Thinking, Visible Learning and Strategic Development, Martin offers exciting new opportunities for FE colleges, TAFE’s, Sprogcenters and Gymnasiums, including:

  • Challenge

  • Creative and Entrepreneurial Thinking
  • Developing motivation & self-efficacy

  • Growth Mindsets

  • Effective Questioning
  • Engagement and Motivation

  • Feedback and assessment
  • From surface to deep: developing dialogue

  • Leading Learning

  • Peer Observation
  • Progress and achievement

  • Shared Vision and Strategic planning

  • Student Self-Assessment

  • Teaching Thinking
  • Visible Learning

Learn more about these topics here

Martin is skilled keynote speaker, and is highly praised around the world by Leaders and Teachers alike; "Inspiring", "knowledgeable" and "thought-provoking" are just some of the words used to describe his presentations at every phase of learning.


The conferences he will be speaking at over the coming year include:

Visible Learning conferences alongside Professor John Hattie

Challenging Learning conferences in Denmark, Sweden and Norway, hosted by Dafolo

Challenging Learning conference for Further Education in Sweden

GlobalEd conference in the USA (tbc)


Contact Martin

Lisa Barrett can help you if you want to contact Martin.

Lisa is PA to Martin Renton and has access to his diaries and calendars.  Lisa is the best person to contact for any new enquiries or for any questions about Martin's work schedule

Praise for Martin Renton

Here are a few examples of what people say after Martin's keynotes and workshops...

  • The facilitator (Martin Renton) was amazing and the courses were intense, challenging and draining but provide invaluable strategies that become second nature when used on a daily basis.


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

    Lecturer, Northern Ireland

    Northern Ireland
  • "Dear Martin,  Thank you so much for sharing your love of learning through inquiry; you have truly inspired me and I am looking forward to seeing our school community grow and develop"


    Teacher, Australia
  • "Martin, Thank you for taking the time to come and share your knowledge and experience.  It's been awesome."


    teacher, Australia
  • "Best quality training on assessment I have ever had - not just in terms of music assessment."


    teacher, UK
  • "From my perspective as Head of Quality Improvement, I feel that the overall quality of teaching and learning at the college has improved, and feedback from the Education and Training Inspectorate would support this."

    College Quality Improvement Manager

  • "Martin listened intently to the needs of the school and staff team and responded to this by tailoring his training and training materials to the specific foci identified by the SLT."  


    Special School for pupils with autistic spectrum conditions