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James Nottingham

Keynote speaker, author & education consultant

Engaging, thought-provoking and industry-defining. These are just some of the words used to describe James Nottingham and his stellar contribution to the world of education.

As a best-selling author and famed creator of the Learning Pit, a work that has been referenced over 200 million times, he has played a significant role in strengthening learning for students around the world.

He listed in The Future 500, a ‘definitive list of the UK’s most forward thinking and creative innovators.’.

A Lifelong Fascination About Learning

I am fascinated by learning, particularly when it doesn’t occur as we expect it to. ↓

This comes, in part, from seeing how my own children experience such varied outcomes: the eldest, a top-grade student and head girl; an autistic son in the middle who would extend his work experience to full-time in a heartbeat; and a younger daughter trying to navigate a year group with the worst reputation in a generation. It also comes from having fallen through the gap at school myself, being kicked out of the family home at 16, and failing miserably at my first jobs in farming and factory work. It was only at the end of the eighties, when volunteering in squatter camp schools, that I found an affinity and easy rapport with other young people struggling to make sense of learning. Thus began a lifelong inquiry to better understand what we can all do – staff, parents, students – to improve learning outcomes for everyone.

My first job in a school was as a teaching assistant with deaf children. ↓

Two years later, I started my teacher training, majoring in Philosophy for Children (P4C) and graduating with first-class honours. Then, after ten years teaching in primary and secondary schools, a TV documentary was made about the work I was doing with middle school pupils in Northumberland (UK). This led to invitations from across Europe & Australia to help others create their own ‘learning to learn’ approaches. At the heart of this work was the Learning Pit, an illustration I developed in the late nineties to better prepare my students for the complications and contradictions encountered on route to deeper understanding.

Since then, I have worked closely with Carol Dweck and John Hattie. ↓

My first conference tour with Prof Dweck was in 2010 and then every second year since, and with John Hattie, we took joint responsibility for introducing Visible Learning across Scandinavia for from 2013-19. This VL+ licence, together with the longer-term projects I was already running, meant that I needed to build a team around me and at the peak, we had 25 full-time staff in seven countries. All of which was wonderful until the covid pandemic hit and I put people before business, topping up everyone’s wages and reassuring them (naïvely it turns out) that we’d be back at it in just a few months. Three years and one huge overdraft later, I’m back to where I started – a freelance author and consultant with a passion for learning.

The silver lining of the pandemic was returning to teaching in local primary & secondary schools. ↓

more time being dad; improving my presentations to camera such that commissioned videos to support ongoing professional learning are now a key feature of my work; and taking the time to pull together the very best bits from my first eleven books, update the research and the practical strategies within them and then writing my twelfth (and what I believe to be my best) book: Teach Brilliantly.

The support I offer schools is as varied as the settings I work with. ↓

Much of my consultancy is overseas, particularly in the USA, Scandinavia, Australia and NZ, supporting K-12 schools, colleges, early years settings, school districts, and alternative provision centres. Here in the UK, my work has historically been in Scotland and northern England because of where I live and word of mouth, but I welcome invitations from any setting, anywhere.

I focus on pedagogy, not content. This means what I share is suitable for all staff. ↓

support, teaching, leading and governing – and in every phase from pre-K to 12 and beyond. I use lots of real-life examples to illustrate important research and concepts, and these are always selected to be as relevant as possible to every person in the room.

The keynotes I give are excellent. ↓

(though I say so myself), having built a strong reputation for blending research analysis, high expectations, good humour and practical advice into compelling narratives. The half and full-day staff PL sessions are just as engaging, keeping everyone focused thoughtfully and productively throughout our time together.

I don’t just talk a good game; I walk it too … invite me into your classrooms ↓

and I will happily show you the strategies I recommend working with your students in your context. All staff are welcome to observe (and we can record the session for those who can’t make it) so that we can reflect on and critique the learning afterwards. This leads to colleagues trying out the strategies with me there to team teach and support.

I am of course the best person to talk about the Learning Pit – after all, I created it! ↓

However, my interest and depth of understanding spreads wider than that. I share the small shifts we can make – in the language we use, the teaching strategies we choose, and the approaches to learning we take – within the following themes:

  • ATTITUDES AND APTITUDES – enhancing students’ approach to learning, including growth mindset, collective and self-efficacy, resilience and agency.
  • CHALLENGE – creating optimum levels of challenge and guiding students through the Learning Pit.
  • DEPTH OF LEARNING – more effectively moving students from surface knowledge to deep learning and transfer of understanding and skills.
  • FEEDBACK – ensuring all students use the advice they receive in a timely and effective manner so that those messages are always formative.
  • HIGH EXPECTATIONS – identifying the characteristics and actions that prove to students that we hold high expectations for their learning (incidentally, this is not a euphemism for ‘behaving’, although clear routines are significant).
  • INQUIRY-LED LEARNING – strengthening students’ collaboration and inquiry skills, building dialogic teaching, embedding Philosophy for Children, and broadening students’ repertoire of thinking skills strategies.
  • QUESTIONING – so commonly used but rarely effective for all Small tweaks can make a significant difference though. In fact, these adaptations may well give the biggest bang for the smallest buck in almost every setting.

I don’t have scripts or programmes to follow. I design everything according to context. ↓

So, when inviting me to present a keynote speech (45-90mins), choose one or two of the themes above so that I can design a balance of analysis and pragmatism. For staff days and half-days, choose between one to four themes. When we work together on a normal teaching day, then I recommend starting with demonstration lessons observed by staff followed by an after-school staff meeting to review and identify next steps, and then perhaps a presentation to parents to get them on board.

Longer-term work includes all the above plus coaching calls, team teaching, student interviews. ↓

(I share anonymised transcripts afterwards), resources for parents, and videos of the best examples and key points covered together so that new and returning staff don’t miss out.

I am the best person to talk about the Learning Pit – after all, I created it! My interest and depth of understanding spreads wider than that, though.

I share the small shifts we can make to dramatically improve learning – These include a focus on the language we use to describe learning, the teaching strategies we choose to boost progress, and the research that underpins our pedagogy.

Key themes include:


All Topics



Bio & Images

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


Features of keynote speeches by
James Nottingham

  • Insights into the most up-to-date and compelling research
  • Practical examples drawns from his work internationally
  • Narratives that evoke purpose, passion and clarity
  • A warmth and wit that endear him to even the most work-weary staff
  • Provocations as well as encouragements

The comments made by delegates afterwards include:

  • Finally! Someone who knows teaching inside out and yet also has amazing insights in research.
  • I have learnt more from that keynote than I did throughout my entire teacher training course!
  • He describes exactly what kind of teacher I want to be – and more importantly, he’s shown me what to do to get there.
  • More than 30 years in teaching and I thought there was nothing left to learn – until now. Bring on the new school year – I can’t wait! I’m going to be such a better teacher after this.
  • Every classroom should have a James Nottingham in it. Every single student would flourish!

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 for years to come.”

Karen Fitzpatrick, Superintendent, USA

“James has deep knowledge of schooling and a great sense of humour, but most importantly there is seeming no challenge he is not prepared to undertake to make a difference to the learning lives of children.

Professor John Hattie

All Keynotes Include

  • A presentation designed to match your context (He does not have the standard presentations or formulated programs and packages).
  • A preview video recorded specifically for your delegates ahead of time to give them a sense of the main messages they will hear.
  • Pre-reading recommendations (we can also arrange bulk buy discounts if you wish to provide copies of one of his books for your delegates).
  • A PDF copy of all the slides created by James for your event’s keynote.
  • Access to the Learning Pit graphics that can be downloaded for free with the use of a delegate code.

Bonus Options

  • Online access to a library of videos recorded by James to support ongoing professional learning (a highly regarded resource for PLCs and new-staff inductions).
  • Longer-term support for your team. Choices include online Q&A and implementation consultations (typically held a few working weeks after the keynote); mid-term visits for James to recommend next steps and/or demonstrate some of the strategies working with your students; and staff or leader coaching.

Inviting James into Your School

With a wealth of expertise and experience in your team, why invite James into your school?

Buy yourself some time. Time to focus on pedagogy and learning outcomes. Time to amplify the strengths of your school; as well as to find opportunities for improvement. Time away from the urgent tasks and responsibilities your team faces to focus exclusively on ways to boost your teaching, leading, and learning.

Objectivity and insight. You know your context better than anyone. James brings a fresh pair of eyes, and an impartiality that draws out honest insights from staff and students. Together, you and he can create approaches that are more effective, efficient, and equitable.

Expertise and evidence. James has been consulting with schools and pre-schools since 1999. In that time, he has supported 450+ organisations in 20+ countries; worked closely with influential researchers such as Carol Dweck and John Hattie; established seven companies in seven countries, employing 30 full-time staff; and written 12 books for teachers, leaders, and parents. This understanding of evidence, experience, and impact guides everything he offers.

Contact James

Full Biography

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Consultant, Author, Keynote Speaker

This site represents two tradenames:


This trademark is held by James Nottingham (reg. No. 6.381.157) Uses of the Learning Pit for educational and not-for-profit purposes are usually permitted when seeking permission via this site.


This is the name of the group of companies founded by James Nottingham (full details shown on the Contact Us page). It is also the name of his first book.

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