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 you wanting to do things differently without a bag of guilt to weigh you down.

PROFESSOR MICK WATERS

Biography

  • Creator of The Learning Pit®
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA)
  • Co-Founder of P4C.com
  • Founder and Director of Challenging Learning

James Nottingham is the creator of The Learning Pit as well as a sought-after keynote speaker and author of 11 books about teaching, learning and leadership. He co-founded Challenging Learning in 2006 to share some of the best ways to strengthen learning in schools, nurseries, and colleges. HIs company now employs 25 staff in six countries: the UK, the USA, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Australia.

Growing up, James was one of the ‘naughty kids’ at school; he spent more time on detention than he cares to remember and was expelled twice from secondary school. At 16, his father kicked him out, leading to an itinerant life of farm and factory work before finding his feet as a school volunteer in squatter camps in apartheid South Africa. On his return to the UK, he took a job as a teaching assistant at a school for deaf children, before training to be a teacher.

In 1999, James appeared in a TV documentary about Philosophy for Children (P4C), leading to an invitation to set up a social regeneration project in North East England. This multi-million-pound initiative won many prestigious awards for strengthening young people’s lives, including “helping young people to become clearer, more accurate, less self-contradictory and more aware of other arguments and values before reaching a conclusion.” Independent research by two universities also found strong correlations between project inputs and national test improvements.

As the European funding for this project wound down, James set up an independent consultancy to share the best practices with a wider audience. This company is now known as Challenging Learning and is currently supporting education on every continent (except Antarctica!). In a business sense, James continues as the CEO of the company; in education terms, he is the principal keynote speaker, author and innovator.

Notable highlights and milestones

  • Creating and directing Challenging Learning, an award-winning company held in the highest esteem for combining international expertise with local knowledge, as well as its dedication to staying with partnership organisations until they have realised their vision for their staff and students.
  • Developing into one of the best regarded keynote speakers in education, headlining regional, national and international conferences across the world.
  • Creating and sharing The Learning Pit (2007), a model now so popular you can find 200 million references online.
  • Writing 11 books for teachers, leaders, and parents. Many of these are bestsellers – including the number one bestselling educational book in Sweden – and most are translated into multiple languages.
  • Working closely with Carol Dweck, the professor of psychology behind the Growth Mindset research. To date, Dweck & Nottingham have presented at 30 conferences together.
  • Securing the official licence for Visible Learning projects across Scandinavia, involving a close collaboration with John Hattie from 2013-2019.
  • Co-founding and supporting many charitable and social equity initiatives, including setting up and funding P4C.com, an international resource and collaboration cooperative for Philosophy for Children.

Awards and qualifications

  • 2020: FRSA – made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts for outstanding achievements to social progress and development.
  • 2015: Named by Skolvärlden (National Teaching Union of Sweden) as ‘one of the most highly-regarded and talked about names in the world of school development.’
  • 2014: Included in the Future 500, a ‘definitive list of the UK’s most forward thinking and creative innovators’.
  • 2005: One North East – Special Recognition Award for outstanding contribution to the progress and achievement of young people in the North East of England.
  • 1996: BA (hons.) QTS – Bachelor of Arts in Education with Qualified Teacher Status: Lancaster University, First Class Honours.
  • 1993: Student of the Year, University of Connecticut, USA – recognising social engagement and student outreach to the wider community.
  • 1989: Dip. TEFL – Diploma for Teaching English as a Foreign Language, Cambridge University, Distinction.

Published Books & Articles

  1. Nottingham, J.A. (2020). The Learning Pit. Alnwick, Northumberland, UK: Challenging Learning.
  2. Nottingham, J.A., Nottingham, J., & Bollom, T. M. (2019). Learning Challenge Lessons: Secondary ELA. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
  3. Nottingham. J. A. & Larsson B. (2018). Challenging Mindset: Why a Growth Mindset Makes a Difference in Learning – and What to Do When It Doesn’t. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
  4. Nottingham, J.A. & Nottingham, J. (2018). Challenging Early Learning. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.
  5. Nottingham, J.A. & Nottingham, J. (2018). Learning Challenge Lessons: Primary. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
  6. Nottingham, J.A. (2017). The Learning Challenge: How to Guide Your Students Through the Learning Pit. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
  7. Nottingham, J.A. & Nottingham, J. (2017). Challenging Learning Through Feedback. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
  8. Nottingham, J.A., Nottingham, J., & Renton, T. M. (2016). Challenging Learning Through Dialogue. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
  9. Nottingham. J. A. (2016). Challenging Learning (2nd ed.). Abingdon, UK: Routledge.
  10. Nottingham, J. A. (2013). Encouraging Learning: How You Can Help Children Learn. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.
  11. Nottingham, J.A. (2010). Challenging Learning (1sted.): Theory, Effective Practice and Lesson Ideas to Create Optimal Learning in the Classroom. Alnwick, Northumberland, UK: JN Publishing.
  12. Nottingham, J.A. (2007). Exploring the Learning Pit. Teaching Thinking and Creativity, 8:2(23), 64–68. Birmingham, UK: Imaginative Minds

All books in English
Bøger på dansk 🇩🇰
Libros en español 🇪🇸
Boeken in het Nederlands 🇳🇱
Bøker på norsk 🇳🇴
Böcker på svenska 🇸🇪

Beyond Work

A few facts you might find interesting about James …

  • He lives on the English-Scottish border with his wife, three children, two guinea pigs, and four miniature sausage dogs. From their home, they have views of Lindisfarne, the Holy Island where the Vikings first landed in Britain in AD 793.
  • His favourite part of consultancy life is running demo lessons; give him any group of students and he’ll show you Challenging Learning pedagogies in practice. In 2018, he ran some demos at Kringlaskolan in Sweden. Soon after, one of their students, Greta Thunberg, went on strike … (he doesn’t think the two events are connected).
  • He once had a cup of tea with Nobel Peace Prize winner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
  • His mother died when he was 11; his father headed off to the Falklands War a few months later; he was unsuccessful in saving his school friend dying from an asthma attack aged 13, and the CPR he administered failed to save a student during his first teaching job.
  • On 15 June 1996, he was seconds away from the largest bomb explosion in Britain since WWII, detonated by the IRA in Manchester city centre. That same afternoon, he watched Gazza score one of the best goals ever against Scotland in Euro’96.
  • He regrets not learning any other languages – apart from British Sign Language in 80s, which he has now all but forgotten – but plans to put that right when he hangs up his work boots. The problem is, which language(s) to choose!
  • He enjoys taking part in, talking about, and watching sports (particularly football) – although the only one he’s actually any good at is swimming.
  • He met the band, James, in a bar in Connecticut in May 1994 and enjoyed a few drinks with them. One of their subsequent hits, Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) feels like the theme tune to his life.
  • The furthest north he’s ever been is Tromsø, Norway (70°N) and the furthest south is Invercargill, NZ (46°S).
  • He has 5 tattoos (so far).

Get in Touch

If you have any questions, then don’t hesitate to connect with your main contact at Challenging Learning.

Alternatively, you are welcome to contact any of the following members of our team:

Head Office (UK)

The Americas

Asia Pacific

Scandinavia

Marianne Skogvoll
Email
+47 98617485

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 you wanting to do things differently without a bag of guilt to weigh you down.

PROFESSOR MICK WATERSUK

One of the best PD opportunities I’ve ever experienced! Thank you, James Nottingham & Challenging Learning for 3 awesome days of learning!

KATHY WOMMACKCONSULTANT, NEW YORK

Your keynote was perfect! Feedback from delegates identified your inspirational and thought-provoking keynote as the highlight of the day. I am sure the impact will be felt across our schools and nurseries for years to come.

SILVANA TEJÓNCONFERENCE ORGANISER, BUENOS AIRES

Nothing short of an AMAZING speaker. Time flew by! Although it was in English, the language was never a problem!

B JENSENTEACHER, DENMARK

James Nottingham is a teacher and leader, and one of the most talked-about names in the world of school development today

SKOLVÄRLDENSWEDISH TEACHING MAGAZINE

I thought it was an inspiring lecture by James Nottingham. I wish everyone in education could hear these important messages.

ALEXANDRA SUNDELINPRE-SCHOOL LEADER, DENMARK

I attended the Mindset congress because of James Nottingham and wow, I was blown away. I enjoyed his presentation so much! I shared his ideas with my secondary school colleagues, and they were so enthusiastic.

MONICA BLANKESTIJNTEACHER, NETHERLANDS

James delivered a fantastic thought-provoking keynote that sparked debate and discussion amongst delegates alongside some excellent examples and nuggets of suggested good practice for them to take back to school.

CONFERENCE ORGANISERBIRMINGHAM, UK

Thank you so much for a fantastic Keynote speech at our conference yesterday, it was the perfect way to start a conference titled #BeInspired. The feedback from delegates has been fantastic and so many forms refer to your inspirational speech and workshop.

KYLIE SPARKHEADTEACHER, MANCHESTER, UK

Hanging out this morning with James Nottingham, The Learning Pit during an @ROESeventeen Professional Development Session! Thanks for the opportunity to learn from this awesome Educator ROE 17!

RAE HUGHARTAUTHOR AND TEACHER, NORMAL IL

James Nottingham has developed a rare skill for blending arresting anecdotes, hard-edged research and practical advice into a truly compelling narrative.

PROFESSOR BARRY HYMERUK

Profile Images

If you have booked James to speak at your event, then you are welcome to use any of the photographs on this page. In all other cases, you should check with Challenging Learning before using any of our images.

Most of the photographs were taken by Andrew Billington or members of the CL team. All images are copyrighted by Challenging Learning.

Studio Shots
Action Shots

Profile Images

If you have booked James to speak at your event, then you are welcome to use any of the photographs on this page. In all other cases, you should check with Challenging Learning before using any of our images.

Most of the photographs were taken by Andrew Billington or members of the CL team. All images are copyrighted by Challenging Learning.

Studio Shots

Action Shots

Speaker Set Up

To ensure a high-quality presentation, please make sure the following is provided (shown in rank order of importance to James) …

A must
  • An AV set-up including projector and screen, plus either a HDMI or VGA cable (and 3.5mm speaker cable if sound is not going to run through the HDMI cable). James will bring the relevant USB-C adaptors for his Macbook as well as his own presentation remote.
  • A room and AV set-up that allows James Nottingham to have his laptop on stage with him. He likes to edit his slides in response to audience feedback and skip slides without scrolling through everything – neither of which can be done if his slides or laptop are situated elsewhere.
  • If a microphone is needed, then please ensure it is a head mic or lapel mic so that James can keep his hands free for presenting. A handheld mic is much more limiting, so please avoid these if possible.
Everything else is a bonus, including:
  • A clear stage with just a small table for his laptop. A podium is not needed, nor is a ‘top table’. James likes to move on stage so as to engage his audience, which means anything on stage can become an obstruction.
  • Lots of still water (not sparkling) throughout the presentation, plus a good coffee on arrival (double espresso is his poison of choice) would be perfect.
  • For full-day events, it works best to seat delegates at tables (3-8 delegates per table). If space doesn’t allow for this, then rows of chairs are fine.
  • High quality WiFi at large events can be useful to support online questions and feedback but is not a necessity.

Stronger Learning for Stronger Lives

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Stronger Learning for Stronger Lives