<< Societal Engagement

Challenged Based Learning

Challenge Based Learning – Nederlandse Tekst

Challenge Based Learning is an educational approach in which students work on global, real-world, authentic challenges, developing genuine solutions, creating measurable impact! The solutions are co-developed, investigated and acted upon by students and multidisciplinary stakeholders.

CBL was formulated by Apple, Inc. (2012), which proposed an extension of Problem Based Learning called CBL. They define CBL as:

…a collaborative learning experience in which teachers and students work together to learn about compelling issues, propose solutions to real problems, and act. The approach asks students to reflect on their learning and the impact of their actions and publish their solutions to a world-wide audience.

What is CBL?

Challenge Based Learning is a pedagogical approach that focuses on collaborative interdisciplinary inquiry and suggests that students explore the possibilities of familiar technologies for solving complex, real-world problems (Cruger, 2018). In CBL students are actively involved in a realistic and meaningful societal issue, related potentially to their own environment.


Students are encouraged to co-develop/ -investigate and act upon this challenge, together with a transdisciplinary group of classmates, academics, members of the community, or other governmental or business stakeholders (OIETM, 2015). They work together on brainstorming, defining their own problem, recognizing what they know (and don’t know) about an issue, and identifying solutions. It has been proved in numerous studies looking into participatory learning such as CBL that participants indicated greater interaction among them and knowledge sharing during the course, as well as higher performance on integrating and synthesizing concepts (O’Mahony et al., 2012), empowering them to move from a hypothetical and tentative stage about “making change” to action! (Cruger, 2018).  In this type of education there is a focus on the trajectory to become an Adaptive Expert (AE), instead of routine experts. This means there is a chance for students to develop the capacity of adaptability and innovate using their acquired knowledge, when presented with a novel problem (Martin et al., 2007).

The role of the teacher is quite different from regular education, since the teacher serves as mentor and facilitator, but must resist temptation to either define the problem or find “good” solutions for their students. Therefore, CBL advocates that students are actively involved in determining even how projects are assessed. CBL is an amended form of PBL where problems are of a realistic, open-ended, and complex nature (Cruger, 2018).

An indicative example of CBL related learning outcomes is that from CHARM-EU university’s first Master degree in Global Challenges for Sustainability:

  • Research and evaluate complex societal challenges from different stakeholder and intercultural perspectives.
  • Develop creative and critical thinking skills.
  • Assess and integrate different disciplinary and transdisciplinary knowledge and research methodologies.
  • Demonstrate expertise in the identification and application of the latest technological tools to source, analyse, handle, use and communicate complex bodies of data ethically.
  • Acquire expertise and communicate effectively on complex issues.
  • Formulate an advanced understanding of transdisciplinarity and demonstrate expertise in the facilitative, communicative, reflexive and collaborative skills to support its practice.
  • Acquire advanced transversal competencies in problem solving, entrepreneurialism, innovation, digital skills, and a life-long learning disposition.

Support on CBL:
If you want to learn more about CBL and/or would like support on designing or being involved in this type of education, please check the following information:


Challenge Based Learning – BITT Challenge

The Regenerative City