The Learning Pit. This is not what learning feels like – UNDER EDIT


3 thoughts on “The Learning Pit. This is not what learning feels like – UNDER EDIT

  1. Brian says:

    When I approach the need to understand a new topic/issue such as “expert vs novice” I go into the topic completely confused. I look around for a few scraps that I can hook into and a few experts who might lead the way and I use these hooks to ask more questions and expand my knowledge and understanding.

    I don’t simply rely on others to spoonfeed me knowledge, I go out and get it. For me that is the nature of learning. Only in school do kids sit in rows for lessons and then do a little written test. In the real world things are a bit messy.

    I am not suggesting we copy the real world and develop what some would call a “progressive” approach, I am however suggesting that people should sometimes be in situations in which they need to plan and deliver learning for themselves. There are times when they will be confused as you and I are when we investigate something new.

    I have to admit that these pictures of “the pit” do not add anything for me and there are for me much better ways of describing independent learning and autodidaxy. So while I hate the pictures, I don’t necessarily see your interpretation of their intended message to be a negative one.

    If Erin is confused after the learning has taken place then it would seem that the learning has been ineffective but if Erin is confused during the process surely this is to be expected. Learning is for me about problem solving and when solving unfamiliar problems a certain amount of mess and confusion is almost inevitable.


  2. What do you think about the concept of ‘desirable difficulty’ that David Didau talks about, where having students temporarily struggle with new material in an effort to assimilate it is seen as a good thing?


  3. I think the metaphor has been misinterpreted.

    In his description of ‘The Pit’, James Nottingham (its creator) discusses how it relates to conceptual development. It is more about cognitive conflict than simply being stuck, which I think is one common misinterpretation.

    I have seen it being used to good effect to discuss what it feels like to be confused about a concept or situation – even for circumstances when children are trying to resolve friendship issues, or make sense of a situation. The focus is on what strategies the learner can use to resolve the confusion or dilemma. A child who has no idea of how to resolve the conflict of course needs some support, and it is up to the teacher to provide the right level of support.

    One misconception that existed at my school was that children who are stuck are always in the pit. It was pretty obvious that those children who had no clue or who had not tried anything to resolve being stuck, were not in the pit at all – and it was most certainly the teacher’s role to assess why and intervene appropriately. This could be due to many reasons including work ethic or prior attainment.

    I think when it’s used correctly, it accurately describes cognitive conflict but more appropriately refers to conceptual understanding than just developing surface knowledge.


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