Fundamental of challenge-based learning

Challenge-based learning (CBL) began with the movement of “Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow—Today” which identify the crucial design principles of the 21st century learning environment (Apple Inc., 2020). CBL builds on the theory of experiential learning founded by John Dewey, Kurt Lewin and Jean Piaget (Kolb, 1984).

How does it work?

Challenge-based learning starts with a "big idea" which is a broad issue that affects school or community. Throughout the challenge, students have the opportunity to create a variety of products which include but not limited to: an animation video, a game, journal article, infographic poster, group or individual reflective video and more (Apple Inc., 2020).

One of the important aspect of CBL is that students determine the direction of the research and solution. The challenge proposal where students will state the big idea, list out the guiding questions that help guide students search for solutions to their challenge and why the challenge is important to them. Solving a problem that is meaningful and close to their heart will not only motivates students but also create meaningful learning for students (Apple Inc., 2020).

What is the role of educators in CBL?

The teacher’s role is at CBL is project manager, coach or mentor. However, tremendous preparation work is required from the educators in order to successfully implement CBL in classroom (Apple Inc., 2020).

The structure of challenge-based learning:



Engage – Students use the Essential Questioning process to guide them to identify concrete and actionable challenge statement. The purpose of this phase is to have students to connect and immerse themselves about the challenge and most importantly feel excited about solving the challenge.

Investigate –Students carry out content and concept-based research to find out as much information as possible to create actionable and sustainable solutions to the challenge.

Act - Students develop and implement the evidence-based solution with authentic audience and the final results are evaluated. Students will not only demonstrate content mastery, most importantly, they are also making a difference in their community.

Where is CBL implemented and what was the result?

The CBL research was mainly carried out in the United States (Johnson and Adams, 2011). A study was carried out at Ringwood North Primary School in Melbourne, Australia and the result was encouraging. It was found that students’ self-esteem and confidence has increased and overall teamwork has also improved and an overall improvement in teamwork. Most profound finding through this research is that it helped developed kids’ empathy. One of the students stated in his reflective video “I’m making a difference. I’m not just feeling sorry for people — I’m trying to help people, and it makes me feel like a better person.” (MarkCBL, 2016). CBL project sustainability carried out with 220 Year 7 boys in 2013 through shows that not only students benefited from CBL, most importantly, teachers also gained professional learning through this experience, especially for teachers who were hesitant to use technology (Corcoran and Jensen, 2013).


Apple Inc. (2020). Challenge Based Learning: A Classroom Guide.

Challenge Based Learning (2020). The Framework

Kolb, D. (1984) Experiential learning. Experience as the source of learning and

Development (Englewood CliÚs, NJ: Prentice Hall).