Learning Detectives Blog

Sharing some lovely ideas from the wonderful world of education

International Women’s Day celebrates women’s achievements throughout history. At Challenging Learning we’re marking the occasion with a free lesson plan all around 'Women's Suffrage'. To request your free copy please CLICK HERE.

At Challenging learning we're proud that 69% of our fabulous team are female. We asked our whole team to tell us about which extraordinary female has inspired them in their lives. With so much choice it was difficult to narrow it down to just one person.

The Challenging Learning team recently worked with all the staff in Mönsterås Kommun.  We spent three days together exploring how we can help students construct meaning through high quality learning activities.  We focused on developing student's questioning skills; giving them a language to talk about their thinking; improving learning dialogue and how quality feedback makes a significant impact on learning. It was a pleasure to work with such professional and committed practitioners and we look forward to seeing you again soon, Mönsterås!

Happy World Teachers' Day. We're so lucky to work with some truly amazing and passionate teachers who are 100% committed to their profession. Not only do we work with such teachers everyday in our partner schools but our team is made up of talented and inspiring teachers who are committed to helping schools be the best they can be.

When I first became a teacher, I recall a friend telling me that the best part of being a teacher was the month of August.  Having  experienced 21 Augusts not working in schools I whole-heartedly agree.

Prøver du også at finde balance mellem den daglige undervisning og afprøvning af nye ideer i din professionelle praksis? Føler du nogle gange, at du har gang i for mange ting? Og tænker du også nogle gange, hvorfor er jeg holdt op med at gøre det ene eller andet? Oplever du også, at den energi, du lægger i din forberedelse ikke altid er i balance med det, du får ud af det i selve undervisningen? Martin Steno, som er konsulent for Challenging Learning i Danmark, introducerer her sin nye model, som måske kan hjælpe dig med at finde hoved og hale i forhold til nye ideer, og det du synes allerede fungerer godt i din daglige undervisning.

Are you juggling your day-to-day job with the desire to introduce new methods into your classroom? Do you feel overwhelmed sometimes? Would you value the opportunity to focus and give some time to develop new ideas? Despite being busy do you also feel that all of your efforts aren’t producing the outcomes you had planned? Martin Steno, a Challenging Learning Consultant based in Denmark introduces his new model to help you with this balancing act that most teachers deal with.

Ett dynamiskt tänkesätt (Growth mindset) är föreställningen om att ens egen och andras intelligens, talang och förmågor kan utvecklas. Det leder till att man tänker att man kan utvecklas genom att arbeta hårt, använda effektiva strategier och ta hjälp vid behov.

Growth mindset is the belief that intelligence, talents and abilities can be developed.  People guided by a growth mindset believe they can improve through hard work, use of effective strategies and help from others when they need it. Fixed mindset is the belief that intelligence, talents and abilities are more or less set in stone and cannot be improved. This is the core message to take away from decades of research by Carol Dweck.

A recent article regarding Head teachers (school leaders) recently caught our interest. Here’s our opinion piece regarding the article ‘Why the UK School system does not reward the best head teachers.’

Enigma Table

1st March 2016

The 'Enigma Table' stands alone in our Classroom and at the beginning of the week I put an interesting but not immediately indentifiable object (see photo). During the week the children come up to the table (independently) and have lots of interesting discussions about what the object could be. There is a pencil pot and post it notes available for them to write their ideas down (great for monitoring their writing and honic skills).

Following on from the 3 Apples experiment, here's another contribution from Ian McKenzie at Viscount School in Auckland. He's been working with a class of 12-year-olds on values, using a variation of the hot air balloon scenario (a balloon's going to crash unless a few people are ejected from the basket). As Ian explains:

Teaching Attitudes

4th January 2016

Having shared the ASK model with staff at Sandringham Primary School in Doncaster during their work with the Community Designed Education network, I am delighted to hear that they have really gone to town with the teaching of attitudes.

Norwegian Mental Models

7th December 2015

Now that there are 15 schools and nurseries in Norway in the Community Designed Education network, with 6 more due to join this summer, I thought it about time I posted a Norwegian blog (for the English version, use the translator at the bottom of the page). And how fitting that the picture should come from Hogsnes oppvekstsenter, the first school in Norway, and indeed in Scandinavia, to join the CDE network.

James Nottingham created the Learning Challenge as a way to promote and enhance challenge and inquiry (more...)

As our company expands, we need two teachers to help us develop our strategies and resources.

Northumberland Study Tour

16th October 2015

Colleagues from the Slagelse Kommune in Denmark recently enjoyed a Study Visit to the UK to see how schools in England compared with schools in Denmark. They were particularly interested in how students use learning intentions and success criteria as part of the learning process and also how students know what progress they are making against their targets.

New Site Launched

21st September 2015

We’re delighted to announce the launch of our new Challenging Learning site. It’s been a long time in coming but at last it is here!

Fortune Lines

26th August 2015

In the mid-1990’s I was part of the Thinking Through Humanities project – a group of teachers from Northumberland working alongside David Leat and colleagues at the University of Newcastle. Among the strategies that we explored and developed were Fortune Lines, so I was particularly pleased to come across this strategy being used with 5/6 year olds recently.


26th August 2015

I recently attended a Clown in the Classroom workshop led by Mark Labrow. Despite initial reservations, we all had an absolute blast. And not only that, it gave us some wonderful ideas for enhancing creativity and spontaneity in learning.

Maps From Memory

21st August 2015

Another favourite strategy of ours is "Maps from Memory".

Billie the Reading Dog

14th August 2015

Another great aspect of Douglas Park School is their dog, Billie, a 5-year-old Golden Labrador. Owned by Annie, the school manager, Billie hangs out in the entrance hall welcoming all visitors and enhancing the family feel of the place.

Assess - "To Sit Beside"

14th August 2015

"our learning conferences give parents the perfect opportunity to “sit beside” their child and to encourage our students to take personal responsibility for their learning"

7 steps to feedback heaven

10th August 2015

The 7 Steps to feedback Heaven

P4C - An introduction

10th August 2015

I used to think that philosophy was for people who would rather prevaricate than take action or for those who don’t care much how they look and seem to resist getting a proper job. Then I was introduced to Philosophy for Children.  Now I don’t want to sound as if I had some sort of evangelical moment but I am convinced of the virtues of philosophy and believe it would be wise to promote philosophical thinking in our schools.  

Teaching the ASK model

6th August 2015

Two of the schools I’m working with, one in Doncaster (UK) and the other in Cambewarra (Australia), are trying a new approach to their curriculum that places an emphasis on Attitudes and Skills, as well as Knowledge (ASK). In a previous blog, I shared the Attitudes work of Sandringham Primary School. Now, here’s an insight into the Skills work that Cambewarra Primary School are doing.

Core Values

5th June 2015

At the heart of the Community Designed Education process is the identification of a set of Core Values. Though most schools have a set of “virtues posters” dotted around the place, this approach is different in that a) it identifies just 3 or 4 of the most important ones, b) focuses attention on these top values so that they are far more likely to be embedded, and c) ensures that the chosen values become part of the curriculum and the culture of the school, and not just a topic for assemblies now and again.

An Early Years target?

29th May 2015

I’ve just begun working with Eikefjord Nursery in Florø on a 3 year project as part of the Community Designed Education network. And, as usual, I asked for some background information before designing the training to ensure everything was tailored to their context. What came back was a wonderful insight into their nursery, courtesy of the headteacher, Susette Esp. Here are some of the edited highlights, as I’m sure colleagues in nurseries and primary schools in other countries would be fascinated to read them:

A Question of 3 Apples

29th May 2015

Ian McKenzie has been helping his students at Viscount School in Auckland develop their questioning skills using a really interesting experiment. He gave them 3 apples to consider: one fresh, one plastic and one… not there. The students were asked to try to explain how and when they know for sure that something is real.

2 Circles for P4C

1st March 2015

Facilitating Philosophy for Children (P4C) can be a challenge with average class sizes in the UK of 30 but a possible solution is to have 2 circles of children – an inner and an outer circle.