5 - 18 year olds

Challenging Learning for Schools

All of our trainers have been teachers in schools. Some of us have also been teaching assistants (pedagogues), middle leaders, and/or principals. Together, we bring together the most up-to-date research and turn it into proven strategies for teaching and learning for students aged 5-18.

We offer 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-school consultancy.

Our 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. To find out more, please download the information documents – available below in English, Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish (with Spanish and French coming soon)

The Challenging Learning Process

The Challenging Learning Process (CLP) leads to higher levels of student engagement; more effective use of feedback; better quality questioning; and enhanced classroom dialogue. To learn more, feel free to download one of the PDF’s below.

Areas of Expertise

If you would like us to provide a keynote speech then we can cover edited highlights of 1 or 2 of the topics below. In a day, we can cover highlights for up to 4 topics. For long-term projects, we can go in-depth with as many topics as you like. You choose; we design!

Assessment Capable Learners

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: Challenge; Dweck Mindsets; Feedback; Learning Pit; Progress for All; Teaching Thinking; Visible Learning


Ensuring all students are challenged and stretched appropriately

A common worry amongst educators is that we find it difficult to challenge our more able students. This has been one of the motivating factors in our work at Challenging Learning (there’s a bit of a clue in our name!) We have developed models and strategies that will help you to ensure that ALL of your students are challenged appropriately, leading to higher levels of engagement and progress.

Connected topics: Assessment Capable Learners; Dweck Mindsets; Feedback; Learning Pit; Progress for All; Self Efficacy & Student Teaching; Teaching Thinking; Visible Learning.

Creative Approaches to Learning

Developing creative and entrepreneurial thinking

The world does not exist in subject compartments; life is made up of complex challenges. Creative approaches to learning aims to generate a rich and varied learning environment in which students develop a range of skills from problem-solving to reasoning, literacy and numeracy in a setting that mirrors the real world. Based on the theory and practice of dramatic enquiry, mantle of the expert, role-play and simulation, we can show you how to help your students make decisions, manage themselves and develop the attitudes, skills and knowledge they need for life beyond the classroom.

Connected topics: Effective Questioning; Learning Pit; P4C; Teaching Thinking

Creating Growth Mindsets

Putting Carol Dweck’s mindsets theory into practice

Carol Dweck is the world’s leading researcher on motivation and engagement. 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: Assessment Capable Learners; Challenge; Feedback; Learning Pit; Progress for All; Self Efficacy & Student Motivation; P4C; Visible Learning; Vision & Strategy

Effective Questioning

Increasing challenge and deepening learning through effective questioning

Increase challenge and deepen learning through the outstanding use of questions. Discover the six most effective questioning techniques, including diagnostic questioning; deep thinking questions; and challenging, facilitating, and responding questions. Also understand how questioning lies at the heart of Assessment for Learning (AfL) techniques, and leads to improved student achievement and progress.

Connected topics: Assessment Capable Learners; Challenge; Feedback; Learning Pit; P4C; Progress for All; Teaching Thinking; Visible Learning

Feedback & Assessment

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 schools 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 to share with you that will ensure your feedback is effective, personalized, credible, timely, and well used.

Connected topics: Assessment Capable Learners; Challenge; Dweck Mindsets; Learning Pit; Progress for All; Teaching Thinking; Visible Learning

Learning Pit

A popular & effective model for enhancing dialogue, questioning, and student motivation

The Learning Pit is one way to explain why more challenge leads to enhanced learning. It helps teachers structure lessons, and students challenge themselves. Created by our founding Director, James Nottingham, the Learning Challenge uses the analogy of a "pit," first used by Butler & Edwards. More background information, a full description, & lesson resources can be found here ( By choosing this topic, we can show you how to develop questioning and facilitation techniques; ways in which the pit enhances resilience, decision-making and higher order thinking skills; strategies for coming out of the pit; and why eureka moments are crucial for meaningful learning.

Connected topics: All topics shown on this page

Philosophy for Children (P4C)

Engaging and practical ways to use P4C with all students

Philosophy for Children is why Challenging Learning is one of the leading innovators it is today. We have been using the approach with 3 - 19 year olds since the early 90's, and members of our team can be seen on various TV documentaries using the approach. We offer accredited training, support, online materials ( and keynote speeches about P4C. As Robert Sternberg, former president of the American Psychological Society, once said: “No programme I am aware of is more likely to teach durable and transferable thinking skills than Philosophy for Children.”

Connected topics: Challenge; Creative Approaches to Learning; Effective Questioning; Learning Pit; Progress for All; Surface to Deep: Developing Dialogue; Teaching Thinking

Progress for All

Building an emphasis on progress so that all students succeed

How much progress are your students making, and how do you know? These are two of the questions that ought to drive education and yet, they often go unanswered. It seems we have many ways to report on student achievement (national exams and teacher tests) whereas progress, more often than not, is talked about purely in anecdotal terms.  We can show you how to change all this by adapting the emphasis of learning, feedback, and testing in your school.

Connected topics: Assessment Capable Learners; Dweck Mindsets; Effective Questioning; Feedback & Assessment; Learning Pit; Self Efficacy & Student Motivation; Teaching Thinking; Visible Learning; Vision & Strategy

Self Efficacy & Student Motivation

Inspiring and motivating all students 

We all try to motivate and inspire our students. Yet sometimes our strategies backfire. Popular methods of feedback, prize-giving, motivational stickers, praise, and groupings actually have the opposite effect and 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 design learning environments that really do enhance intrinsic motivation and self-efficacy in all students.

Connected topics: Assessment Capable Learners; Challenge; Dweck Mindsets; Learning Pit; Visible Learning

Surface to Deep: Developing Dialogue

Improving the quality of dialogue with and between your students

Dialogue is the foundation of learning because it allows interaction and engagement with the ideas of others. It also provides the opportunity for students to move from surface-level knowledge to deeper understanding of concepts. As a pedagogical tool, it is amongst the most effective ways to give feedback, guidance and challenge. At Challenging Learning, we have developed some superb strategies and approaches to dialogue that will help all staff in schools to make the most of the possibilities.

Connected topics: Assessment Capable Learners; Challenge; Effective Questioning; Feedback; Learning Pit; P4C; Progress for All; Teaching Thinking

Teaching Thinking

Teaching students how to think so that they are more reasoning and reasonable people

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, the following approaches: Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS); de Bono's Lateral Thinking techniques; Habits of Mind; the Thinking Through series from Newcastle University; Thinking Maps; and Philosophy for Children.

Connected topics: Challenge; Creative Approaches to Learning; Effective Questioning; Learning Pit; P4C; Progress for All; Surface to Deep: Developing Dialogue; 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 school 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 by more than 100 schools in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. We also offer shorter courses in Visible Learning, all accredited and signed by John Hattie.

Connected topics: Assessment Capable Learners; Challenge; Creating Growth Mindsets; Effective Questioning; Feedback; Learning Pit; Progress for All; Self Efficacy & Student Motivation; Teaching Thinking; Vision & Strategy

Vision and Strategy

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

Choosing to lead rather than simply manage has dramatic implications for the success of your school. 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: Creating Growth Mindsets; Learning Pit; Progress for All; Visible Learning

  • Case Study

    Yinnar Primary School

    In 2008 James Nottingham was asked to design a schools program in Australia by the Principal of Yinnar Primary School, George Telford. The Professional Development focus areas included Challenge, Mindset, Progress, P4C, Questioning and Outstanding Teaching. James created a Personal Development Program for the whole staff contingent as well as Demonstration Lessons for them to take forward. The following feedback came directly from the Principal, George Telford: Which words would you use to describe the work? “Challenging, Inspirational" What impact has this work had on you and your col ...

  • Case Study

    Brandsøy skule

    From 2008 to 2012 James Nottingham worked with the staff of Brandsøy skule in Norway to create an ongoing program that would cover the following areas of professional development: Challenge, Feedback, Vision & Strategy, Dweck Mindset, Progress, Philosophy for Children The training received by the staff covered the following areas: Whole Staff PD, Demonstration Lessons, Parents' Events, Coaching, Leaders Planning Keynote Speech Which words would you use to describe the work? Challenging, Motivating Useful for school leaders both in short and long-term work What impact has this work ...

  • Case Study

    Ås kommune

    Since 2007 James Nottingham has been working with the Ås kommune in Norway with continual success and excellent feedback across the board. Development focus areas have included Feedback, Vision & Strategy, Mindset, Progress, P4C and Outstanding Teaching. James’ ongoing series of Development Training Programs have incorporated Leaders Planning and Parent Evenings as well as Demonstration Lessons. Below is just a sample of the feedback received: Which words would you use to describe the work? “Thought -provoking, Well planned.” What impact has this work had on you and your colleagues ...

  • Case Study

    St. Luke's CEVA Primary School

    Martin Renton has now been working with this school since 2010 conducting inset days for professional development covering Outstanding Teaching and Creativity for the whole staff function. Which words would you use to describe the work? "Motivating, Thought- provoking" What impact has this work had on you and your colleagues? Significant. Martin has played a pivotal role in developing the school's approach to creative curriculum coverage and delivery. Can you think of an anecdote that would capture the essence of the work that Martin did with you? Following an INSET focused on curricul ...

    “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


    James Nottingham is one of the most talked about names in school development in the world today. His main message is focused on the development of pupils, not their achievement.

    Education World


    If you want an inquisitive and enthusiastic learning environment in the classroom and if you want to enhance your students' self-esteem, then you should read Encouraging Learning. It gives you practical tips on how you can get just that by focusing on concepts such as self-esteem, feedback and  reflection.

    All Skolvärden (Teacher Magazine)


    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.



    An inspirational guide to creating lessons that are thought-provoking, meaningful and at the same time theoretically sound.

    All Professor Carol Dweck

    Professor Carol Dweck

    Stanford University

    Challenging Learning is the best company in Scandinavia to work with if you really want to understand how to make the most of my Visible Learning research.

    Prof John Hattie

    University of Melbourne

    The most effective professional development is led by internal coaches and supported by external experts.

    John Hattie


    “Thank you so much for such an inspirational and thought provoking training day on Monday. I haven't received such a positive response from the staff following any other training event. The staffroom is still buzzing! You pitched it perfectly for our school and have given us plenty to think about.”

    Kylie Spark

    Sale, UK

    “Thanks again for a truly inspirational day. For a school in special measures such as ours it has given the staff a positive direction in which to work together and the staffroom has a buzz about it.”

    Cathy Longhurst

    Herts, UK

    “We had a Headteacher's meeting yesterday and were overwhelmed by the positive response.  They have used the strategies you shared with us in every staff meeting to pose strategic questions to staff.  We used them to set our strategic vision for the group…. Very encouraging!!”

    Nicky Everett

    Essex, UK