The Learning Pit

Feature Articles Thursday, 11 Mar 2021

Have you ever felt stuck? Not sure how to solve something? How do you look at this situation? Is it an opportunity to learn or grow? Or do you simply give up?

We all know learning can be hard and for some of us an endless struggle. We all learn differently. When things get tough, we need to be resilient and resist the urge to give up. It is important that we understand (and accept) that learning should be challenging from time to time. The Learning Pit is a framework that explains why challenge is necessary for learning.

The Learning Pit was originally created by James Nottingham. ‘The Pit’ is the place where deep conceptual understanding takes place.

Once a student is in ‘the pit’ they are challenged to be resilient and reflective to build a growth mindset. The aim of ‘the pit’ is to get students to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. This is where students require the necessary skills to question and reflect so their knowledge can move from surface level to deep understanding. Students are encouraged to not only challenge the concept they are presented with but to question their own thinking. By doing this, students develop their critical thinking, and their curiosity is nurtured, and a love of learning developed.

The Learning Pit is where students experience cognitive conflict. This is a good thing as students are required to think more deeply and by thinking more deeply, they can understand more deeply. Being in the Learning Pit means that the student has given considerable thought to the concept and now has more questions. To get out of the pit, students find answers to their questions.

The way students find answers to their questions is by linking ideas together, considering other viewpoints and options, examining cause and effect. This is where students may experience that ‘awe’ moment, the moment of clarity of thinking. Without the struggle, the deep conceptual learning of inquiry does not occur.

The crucial element of the learning pit is reflecting upon the steps taken to reach the deep conceptual understanding. Once the student understands the process or steps they took, they can then apply their thinking to other learning challenges.

The next time you become challenged and ultimately frustrated putting the flat pac Ikea furniture together, remember the importance of getting in the Learning Pit. Visualise the emotion of success and pride once that piece of furniture is constructed!

Mrs Natalie Adler
Assistant Principal Teaching & Learning: Junior