Challenge-based learning

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Challenge-based learning (CBL) is a pedagogic approach for K–12 education pioneered by education staff at Apple, Inc. that has its roots in problem-based learning and the work of John Dewey. The approach focuses on increasing student engagement, especially for students most at risk of dropping out. Unlike problem-based learning, CBL is a collaborative learning experience in which teachers and students work together to learn about compelling issues, propose solutions to real problems, and take action. The approach asks students to reflect on their learning and the impact of their actions, and publish their solutions to a worldwide audience. The approach was detailed in a 2009 paper by Apple, Inc.[citation needed]

As described in the paper, challenge-based learning includes these attributes:

  • Multiple points of entry and varied and multiple possible solutions
  • Authentic connection with multiple disciplines
  • Focus on the development of 21st-century skills
  • Leverages 24/7 access to up to date technology tools and resources, allowing students to do the work.
  • Use of Web 2.0 tools for organizing, collaborating, and sharing [1]
  • A focus on universal challenges with local solutions
  • Requirement that students do something rather than just learn about something
  • Documentation of the experience from challenge to solution.

These attributes are intended to ensure that challenge-based learning engages learners, provides them with valuable skills, spans the divide between formal and informal learning and embraces a student's digital life. (Apple Inc., 2009, p. 2)

The New Media Consortium published an in-depth study of challenge-based learning in classroom practice in early 2009. The study, which involved 6 schools in the United States, 27 teachers, and 330 students in 17 disciplines, found the approach produced dramatically effective results, especially for the 9th-grade students generally considered to be most at risk of dropping out.


_________ (2009). Challenge-Based Learning Cupertino, California: Apple, Inc.

Johnson, Laurence F.; Smith, Rachel S.; Smythe, J. Troy; Varon, Rachel K. (2009).Challenge-Based Learning: An Approach for Our Time Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and Education. Macmillan Press.

Maxwell, N., Bellisimo, Y., Mergendoller, J. (March/April 2001). Problem-Based Learning: Modifying the Medical School Model for Teaching High School Economics. The Social Studies, 92(2), 73–78.

Mergendollar, J.R., Markham, T., Ravitz, J., & Larmer, J. (2006). Pervasive Management of Project Based Learning, Teachers as Guides and Facilitators. Buck Institute for Education.

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