Frequently Asked Questions

The following is a list of questions we have been asked throughout the years. If you have a question you want answered please use the form at the bottom of the page. 

⇩ How can I be sure my students will learn what they need through Challenge Based Learning?

The Pilot and Implementation research projects found, Challenge Based Learning lends itself to content mastery. By the end of the pilot, nearly every teacher observed that students had mastered the content well beyond expectations. Many felt that the depth of student learning was remarkable, in fact, much greater than anticipated. Students engaged with the content worked harder than expected and demonstrated critical thinking and collaboration skills. Your task as a teacher is to facilitate this by starting with standards-based content and connecting it to 21st-century content and skills throughout the process. Build basic skill practice into the activities and students will see a purpose for gaining the skills.

⇩ I would like to try Challenge Based Learning, but my schedule is very tight. Can I fit this into a week’s worth of classes?

Yes. A Challenge can be completed in as much or as little time as you would like. You can select from different Challenge types and streamline certain stages of the process. For example, while students still work in groups to develop Guiding Questions, do research, propose Solutions, and create a final product, the implementation of the Challenge can be limited to individual students working on their own. However, remember, when students engage in this type of learning, they do not want to stop working on their projects when the school day is over. Explore ways in which you can help your students continue working beyond the school day.

⇩ Do I need to collaborate with other teachers at my school, or can I “go it alone"?

Collaboration with other teachers is a best practice for Challenge Based Learning. It helps ensure that the content is multidisciplinary, and it allows for students to immerse themselves in content and draw connections between subjects. However, a single teacher and a single class can successfully collaborate to complete a Challenge. You can also collaborate virtually with teachers in other schools in your community or beyond.

⇩ Where did Challenge Based Learning come from?

CBL emerged from the “Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow—Today” (ACOT2) project initiated in 2008 to identify the essential design principles of the 21st century learning environment. Starting with the ACOT2design principles, Apple, Inc. worked with exemplary educators to develop and test Challenge Based Learning.

CBL is deeply in debt to the historical and current scholars and practioners of constructivist and experiential based learning. Without this foundational thinking most of the x-based learning approaches would not have emerged. CBL is no exception. We are indebted to those who came before us and those who emerged with us

⇩ What is the relationship between CBL and PBL?

Challenge Based Learning shares many similarities with Project Based Learning. The Challenge Based Learning Framework was informed by Project Based Learning, and over time the differences have decreased as both approaches have learned from each other. Initially, a significant difference was the origin of the project and the role of the teacher. The original project based approach had the teacher identifying the project idea, doing a majority of the preparation work and then managing a series of events that would lead to a product. Challenge Based Learning, on the other hand, starts with the teacher and student as partners who plan and implement the journey together. With the new Gold Standard PBL, this gap has narrowed. If the goals are to engage all learners, share responsibility, address real needs in the community while deepening subject area knowledge, then a project may be included in Challenge Based Learning, and a Challenge may be part of a Project Based Learning Experience. .

⇩ What is the relationship between CBL and design thinking?

⇩Design Thinking applies the core concepts of design to problem solving and organizational improvement. There are clear parallels between Design Thinking and Challenge Based Learning, and a variety of opportunities to use the ideas together.

While the traditional design thinking steps of Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test overlap with Challenge Based Learning Phases, they are particularly applicable in the Act Phase. Once a Solution concept has been identified, the design cycle is an excellent way to develop an effective Solution. The iterative approach allows for the development of new Guiding Questions, ongoing improvement, and better Solutions.

⇩ What is the relationship between CBL and blended learning?

Blended learning combines the traditional and online learning. This approach integrates especially well with Challenge Based Learning during the Investigation phase and supports efforts to expand learning beyond the four walls of the classroom. Online resources (MOOCS, collections of learning objects, etc.) can serve as a rich source for Guiding Activities and Resources. With the Guiding Questions providing structure, Learners can use online educational resources to learn about the Challenge and build a foundation for their Solution.

⇩ What is the relations between CBL and personalized learning?

Adjusting the approach and pace of learning for the personal needs of Learners is a long-standing goal for education. Historically, the barrier to personalization is student-teacher ratios and the difficulty of accessing enough appropriate resources for all Learners. Advances in technology have started to make personalized learning closer to reality through advanced software platforms. At the core level, personalized learning is a desire to tap into the Learner’s interests and abilities to personalize—and help the Learner take ownership of—the experience. Challenge Based Learning strives to personalize learning by putting the Learners in charge of the process. In defining Big Ideas and Challenges, the Learners tap into personal interests, and, during the Investigation phase, the Learners create learning paths to meet curriculum goals and lay the foundation for a Solution. Personal learning plans can be developed within the Challenge Based Learning experience and existing personal learning plans can include participation in Challenges.

⇩ What is the relationship between CBL and the maker movement?

The Maker Movement encourages the use of digital design and production tools to make new things and perfect existing ideas. These ideas are moving into education resulting in efforts to add maker spaces in schools. Challenges add purpose and focus to Maker Spaces and compliments the emerging ideas around maker learning. Having space where the Learners can design and test prototypes is a perfect fit with the Act phase of Challenge Based Learning. Identifying community needs and developing Challenges that result in real products as Solutions is a powerful addition to Challenge Based Learning.

⇩ What is the relationship between CBL and Coding?

There has been an increased push to expose all students to computer science and have them learn computer coding. As with any subject matter and language, it is easier to learn when there is a clear purpose. Challenge Based Learning can provide purpose and incentive for learning to code. Challenges can be presented that result in software Solutions providing the incentive to learn software programming. Learning to solve Challenges through application development is a more engaging and realistic approach to building interest in coding.

⇩ What is the relationship between CBL and service learning?

The practice of Service-Learning, popularized in the 1980s, is now a standard requirement for most high school students. Service-Learning and Challenge Based Learning share a foundational connection with experiential learning. In practice, service learning has become more passive than originally intended. For many students, community service is no longer about learning and is not connected with the academic curriculum. It is simply an item to check off the list, rather than an active learning experience. Combining Community Service-Learning with Challenge Based Learning allows students to work with community members to actively solve problems and make a lasting difference. CBL returns the learning and activism to Community Service.

⇩ What is the relationship between CBL and Scrum?

Scrum, a version of the Agile software development methodology has recently moved into the traditional classroom setting. In software development, Agile offers an alternative to the traditional incremental or waterfall approach. The adaptive, collaborative and interactive nature of Scrum compliments the Challenge Based Learning framework and is particularly useful during the Act Phase when Solutions are developed. While the complete Scrum Framework may be too intense for shorter Challenges, it is ideal for longer Solution development projects.

⇩ What is the relationship between CBL and computational thinking?

Drawing from concepts from computer science computational thinking seeks to solve problems through systematic thinking, logical investigation, thinking algorithmically, finding patterns and abstraction organically emerge when working towards a Solution. The Investigation Phase will provide many teachable moments that can be used to address the core computational thinking concepts. During the Act phase the computer science mechanics of creating, tinkering and debugging can easily be taught and applied.