Challenge based learning

5 06 2009






There has been much talk about “Challenge based learning”, so I decided to have a read through the latest publications.CBL_Paper

What came through loud and clear to me is that learning is most effective when it is contextualised and relevant to the learner.

We have been trying to achieve something along the same lines through “Learn 4 Life”.

“Learn 4 Life” is a project based program run for yr 7 students in the 1:1 Macbook program at our school. 

Click here to see the video

The paper attached here has neatly structured the idea of “CBL” into Key Components which are;

The Big Idea:

The big idea is a broad concept that can be explored in multiple ways, is engaging, and has importance to high school students and the larger society. Examples of big ideas are Identity, Sustainability, Creativity, Violence, Peace, and Power. 

Essential Question:

By design, the big idea allows for the generation of a wide variety of essential questions that should reflect the interests of the students and the needs of their community. Essential questions identify what is important to know about the big idea and refine and contextualize that idea

The Challenge:

From each essential question a challenge is articulated that asks students to create a specific answer or solution that can result in concrete, meaningful action. 

Guiding Questions:

Generated by the students, these questions represent the knowledge students need to discover to successfully meet the challenge. 

Guiding Activities:

These lessons, simulations, games, and other types of activities help students answer the guiding questions and set the foundation for them to develop innovative, insightful, and realistic solutions. 

Guiding Resources:

This focused set of resources can include podcasts, websites, videos, databases, experts, and so on that support the activities and assist students with developing a solution.


Each challenge is stated broadly enough to allow for a variety of solutions. Each solution should be thoughtful, concrete, actionable, clearly articulated, and presented in a publishable multimedia format such as an enhanced podcast or short video. 


The solution can be assessed for its connection to the challenge, accuracy of the content, clarity of communication, applicability for implementation, and efficacy of the idea, among other things. In addition to the solution, the process that the individuals as well as teams went through in getting to a solution can also be assessed, capturing the development of key 21st century skills. 


The challenge process allows for multiple opportunities to document the experience and publish to a larger audience. Students are encouraged to publish their results online, soliciting feedback. The idea is to broaden the learning community and foster discussion about solutions to the challenges important to students. 

View  CBL_Paper 

I encourage you to apply  some of these ideas  to your lessons.

John Coppola

Learning Technology Coordinator




One response

5 06 2009

Like the learning for life video John!! It would be good to have a space to showcase some of the student presentations if we don’t already. Sounds like they are doing some great work!!

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