Challenge Based Learning and Your Brain

Over the last several decades, neuroscience, psychology and education researchers have gained significant insights into the learning process. As research on the brain and learning sheds light on how we learn, Mind, Brain and Education (MBE) science now appears to support the underlying ideas and processes of CBL.

Fourteen areas in MBE science intersect with and support the efficacy of the CBL framework.

Big Idea: Environmental Justice

Earth Day provides an opportunity to focus on a vast array of environmental crises and identify ways to make a difference. The impact of environmental issues is often experienced disproportionately by communities of color and low-income communities.

Join educators worldwide to identify environmental justice challenges and develop sustainable and meaningful solutions.

Take Action. Make a Difference.

Challenge Based Learning in a Post-Truth World

To improve the current state of discourse, we need to nurture a generation of learners willing to ask meaningful questions, critically investigate, include multiple perspectives, develop thoughtful solutions, and collaboratively develop solutions. CBL provides a framework for this work.

Big Idea: Plastic

Plastic is a perfect Big Idea to start your CBL because it is a complex topic that spans science, history, politics, economics, and human behavior. While we are learning more and more that plastic is bad for the environment and our health, it is still ubiquitous in almost everyone’s daily life. From computers, cars and lightweight packaging that has made the safe transfer of food possible, plastics have benefited our daily lives. Plastic has made our lives better and worse at the same time. 

Challenge Based Learning (CBL) provides an efficient and effective framework for learning while solving real-world challenges. The framework fuels collaboration to identify big ideas, ask thoughtful questions, and identify, investigate and solve challenges. CBL helps learners gain deep subject area knowledge and develop the skills necessary to thrive in an ever-changing world.


Take Action. Make a Difference.


The CBL Framework includes three interrelated phases: Engage, Investigate, and Act. The framework acts as a customizable starting point for learners.


Explore resources created by learners worldwide to support Challenge Based Learning.


Ready to get started? The Getting Started section provides some ideas for preparing for and starting your first challenge.


The CBL Learning Center offers a variety of ways to deepen your knowledge. From Micro-credentials to an in-depth user guide – we have you covered.


CBL is a fluid framework that evolves based on lessons learned, new ideas and making connections. Check out some new ideas and share yours.


Stories inspire and give us a glimpse of what is possible when learners implement CBL. Explore the stories and think about what story you want to tell.

Big Idea: HEALTH

The challenge you choose can make all of the difference. Moving from a narrower challenge of losing weight to the challenge of “Be Healthy” increases the options for learning and possible solutions.

Identifying challenges.

Developing Sustainable Solutions.

Becoming Lifelong Learners


Why Challenges?

Challenges surround us: large, small, local, global, short and long-term. Some we choose, some choose us, some we look forward to, some we dread, some we address, and some we try to ignore. Ultimately, how we individually and communally respond to Challenges will determine our future. As problems become increasingly complex and pressing, the need to develop a generation of engaged Learners equipped to identify Challenges and develop innovative and sustainable Solutions is crucial.

Using Challenges to frame learning experiences originated from exploring reality television, conversations with individuals whose lives center on Challenges, and reflection on personal learning experiences inside and outside the classroom. When faced with a Challenge, successful groups and individuals leverage experience, harness internal and external resources, develop a plan and push forward to find the best solution. Along the way, there is experimentation, failure, success and ultimately consequences for actions. Adding Challenges to learning environments results in urgency, passion, and ownership – ingredients often missing in schools.

Imagine millions of empowered Learners focused on creating solutions to local and global Challenges as part of their school work. The world becomes a better place.