Teacher and StudentsChallenge Based Learning provides an efficient and effective framework for learning while solving real-world Challenges.

The Challenge Based Learning (CBL) framework is collaborative and hands-on, asking all participants (students, teachers, families, and community members) to identify Big Ideas, ask good questions, identify and solve Challenges, gain in-depth subject area knowledge, develop 21st-century skills, and share their thoughts with the world.

The CBL framework emerged from the “Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow—Today” (ACOT2) project initiated to identify the essential design principles of the 21st-century learning environment. Starting with the ACOT2 design principles, Apple, Inc. worked with exemplary educators to develop and test CBL

CBL builds on the foundation of experiential learning and leans heavily on the wisdom of a long history of progressive ideas. The framework is informed by innovative ideas from education, media, technology, entertainment, recreation, the workplace, and society.

CBL is designed to be flexible, customizable and allow for multiple points of entry. The approach can connect and extend current practice, serve as the framework for specific capstone events during the school year, and act as an overarching institutional wide framework for decision making and learning.

Key Ideas

Challenge Based Learning builds on the foundation of experiential learning and leans heavily on the wisdom of a long history of progressive education. The framework is informed by innovative practices in education, media, technology, entertainment, recreation, the workplace, and society.

Threaded through the Challenge Based Learning framework are a series of foundational ideas. Familiarity with these concepts provides deeper insight into the process, opportunities for discussion, and support for implementation.

  • Teacher/Learner and Learner/Teacher. Ubiquitous access to information and technology provides the opportunity to break down the traditional hierarchical structure of schools and allows all participants to become both teachers and learners.
  • Moving beyond the four walls of the classroom. Involving all of the community members in the process expands resources, creates opportunities for authentic learning and moves the responsibility of education to the larger community.
  • Learner Inspired, Directed, and Owned. Meaningful connections are made between content and the lives of Learners.
  • Challenges provoke. Situations or activities that create a sense of urgency and spur action.
  • Content and 21st century skills. Authentic learning experiences foster deep content knowledge and help Learners to organically develop a wide range of 21st century skills.
  • Boundaries of Adventure. Boundaries are provided to guide the way and provide freedom for Learners to take ownership of the process.
  • Space and Freedom to Fail. A safe space is provided for all learners to think creatively, try new ideas, experiment, fail, receive feedback and try again. This iterative process is built into all of the phases of the framework.
  • Slowing for Critical and Creative Thinking. To ensure full participation and to provide opportunities for deep thinking, the learning process needs to be intentionally slowed down at times.
  • Authentic Use of Technology. Technology is used to research, communicate, organize, create, evaluate, document and persuade.
  • Focus on Process and Product. The process of getting to the solution is valued as much as the solution.
  • Documentation and Storytelling. During each step of the challenge process, the learners document and publish using text, video, audio and pictures.
  • Reflection. Throughout the process, learners continuously reflect on the content and the process.

CBL as . . . 

Challenge Based Learning can be implemented in a variety of ways, and is designed to support other pedagogical approaches. As a verb it expresses a philosophical approach to planning, problem solving and learning. For example: Let’s CBL it!

As a noun CBL can be an event embedded in a learning experience or serve as a capstone experience for a course. For example: At the end of the semester the students will participate in a challenge.

a verb:

  • A way of thinking. 
  • Becomes central to the philosophy of the institution.
  • Organizes other educational approaches 
  • Organizes the curriculum
  • Used at all levels: planning, organizing, teaching.
  • Language permeates the institution

a noun:

  • Is a challenge event (or series of events)
  • Includes a finite time span
  • Is another tool in the toolkit
  • Is used during specified point of the program
  • Is used for a specific purpose.