Stage 1: Challenge
Providing opportunities within our teaching for the children to feel challenged, puzzled, intrigued and even confused is the initial starting point for a Learning Pit lesson. We are forced to wonder and question, and where for some learners this can be intimidating, more able learners are usually excited by the prospect – particularly if it could include proving their teacher wrong! Open-ended tasks and questions are an essential part of the classroom culture.
Stage 2: Struggle
The “fall” into the pit is the most challenging part of learning. When faced with a seemingly impossible task, our pupils often feel like giving up, that the task is just too big or too difficult. The Learning Pit helps children to recognise these emotions as a difficult but essential part of the process, to accept them, even embrace them… and then start digging. For more able learners, this can be the most challenging stage to get through, as many will have had little experience of academic struggle throughout their school lives. It can also be useful for teachers to model the process of “failing”, and even express the emotions of despair and annoyance at becoming “stuck” in the pit.
Stage 3: Deep learning
Once the learners begin to move, the process of deep learning can begin. Drawing upon their prior knowledge, making links to a similar situation and choosing and using classroom resources effectively are all metacognitive skills which come into play during this process. It can be useful for more able learners to articulate the progress they have made through mini plenaries or jottings in a learning journal. This also allows the teacher to revisit the learning process with pupils after completing a task, and reflect upon the success of their learning journey, rather than just the academic output.
Stage 4: Resilience and cooperation
Although the process of deep learning has now begun, learners will begin to understand that the journey out of the pit can be long, difficult and may even involve a few slides back down! It is here that they live out the qualities of a growth mindset, learning to “dig in”, persevere, learn and adapt from their mistakes. It is also through this stage that learners can help each other – offering advice to peers, asking questions or seeking support from each other as they make progress towards a solution. This crucial social constructivism (Vygotsky) can be especially beneficial for more able learners, some of who struggle to relate to their peers on an academic level.
Stage 5: Eureka!
The moment a problem clicks into place and a solution appears is a success that all children (and adults) want to feel. This success, whether individual or as a shared experience with a friend or classmate, is felt at a much deeper level when the struggle of learning has been truly experienced. A memory of a boy in my maths lesson who leapt out of his seat, punched the air and shouted “Yes!!!” as he solved a tricky reasoning problem exemplifies for me the power and success of the Learning Pit. Ultimately, this “eureka” moment acts as the catalyst to spur a learner on into their next “pit” of learning and challenge.