Book by Carrie Winstanley
Review by Alicia Cobb
Assistant Program Manager
Center for Success Coaching
Florida State University

Every student experiences some form of challenge throughout their lifetime before stepping foot in a higher education setting. Carrie Winstanley wrote The Ingredients of Challenge which focuses on the elements of how children are challenged in the classroom. It appears to be written for teachers of K-12 students, however, many principles and suggestions can be useful when working with students who are in higher education. Indeed, children do grow up to become adults. This book provides a better understanding of how college students can experience challenge throughout their education prior to college along with some suggestions and tips in working with K-12 students that can be used at the collegiate level.
The author begins by explaining the importance of challenge and offers theories and best practices for challenging students as teachers. Winstanley then explains each of the five ingredients of challenge in depth- cognitive engagement, risk of failure, independence and self-direction, metacognition, like-minded and age group peers, & novelty and passion. For each ingredient, the author offers tips and suggestions of how teachers can use each of these elements, and advisors can also use these when meeting with their students. Familiarity with challenge in the K-12 education system can help us better understand our college students. The author closes with issues and opportunities outside the classroom that can arise when working with students.
The Ingredients of Challenge teaches us that we should be mindful that some students were not challenged before college, are afraid of challenge, or embrace challenge wholeheartedly in college. An advisor or coach may be the first who encourages the student to challenge themselves academically, engage in research, socially engage, volunteer, etc. Although the book is mainly written for teachers, Winstanley addresses advisors specifically by quoting, “Therefore, the role of a good advisor is to dialogue with the student, assessing the causes of failure, and then guide him or her toward taking responsibility for improvement. Students should be asked the following: What do you think went wrong? What will you do differently? … What did you learn?” (Glasser, 2009). Advisors and coaches can facilitate this thinking and questioning process in order to challenge students throughout their appointments. Consistently throughout The Ingredients of Challenge, Winstanley reaffirms the notion that professionals should have a relationship with a student before they can challenge them. Advisors and coaches have an incredible opportunity to challenge students because of the close relationships they develop.
I recommend this book if an advisor or coach would like to explore how to best challenge their students and gain a better understanding of the different aspects of challenge that can impact student success in college. It also may help in understanding why some students respond to challenge with excitement, frustration, or uncertainty about taking on a challenging class, meeting new people, public speaking, getting involved, etc. I am reminded every student is different, and challenge will be different for each student I work with, depending on their goals and interests. Using some of the authors’ suggestions in how to use the ingredients of challenge will make advising and coaching appointments more meaningful. If you are ready for a personal and professional challenge, I would recommend reading The Ingredients of Challenge.


Glasser, L.B. (2009). We must teach students to fail well. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 55(4) May, p.56.

The Ingredients of Challenge. (2010). Book by Carrie Winstanley. Review by Alicia Cobb. Stoke on Trent, UK and Sterling, USA: Trentham Books, 222 pp., $32.95. ISBN # 978-1-85856457-9,


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