Introduction to Challenge-based Education

Challenging oneself to teach and learn!
The world faces “wicked” problems that continue to perplex policy makers, academics and citizens alike. These problems, often at the intersection of environmental, social, economic and political domains has led thought leaders in all fields to innovate to help better prepare for the uncertainty riddled future. The emergence of Challenge-based Education (CBE) as a teaching and learning strategy is as well an educational response to help better prepare students for challenges they are likely to encounter in the workplaces of tomorrow. Picture1

The Definition 

Challenge-based Education can be defined as a collaborative and hands-on teaching and learning approach, prompting students to work with peers, teachers, and experts in their communities and around the world to ask good questions, develop deeper subject area knowledge, accept and solve challenges, and share their experience (Nichols & Cator, 2008, p.1)

In other words, within CBE, the entire learning experience for students is centered around a real-life challenge, which is delineated by the students themselves. The process of finding solutions to this challenge helps students not only develop deeper subject matter expertise but also develop essential 21st century skills such as creativity, collaboration and communication.
The approach is highly engaging and multidisciplinary, however, despite its long list of learning benefits, educators face several difficulties while designing it. These encompass the process of planning, designing and implementing a successful Challenge-based Education course.
This series of articles serve as an introduction into the theory and practice of CBE. The articles have been developed as part of bi-annual CBE training for educators from the 9 partner universities within ENLIGHT.

Here are some aspects that set CBE apart from other teaching and learning approaches.

The “Recipe” of CBE
Using a cooking metaphor, it may not be a stretch to say that some of you visiting this page might already be experienced “chefs” or designers of educational experiences. CBE can be then seen as an exciting new “recipe” that you will interpret in your own classrooms or “kitchens”. Therefore, to help you go through this journey, we will first familiarize you with this “recipe” and share experiences of educators who have used CBE in varying degrees in design and implementation of their courses.

CBE draws inspiration from several learning theories and concepts along with pre-existing educational practices for e.g. problem-based learning, project based learning, situated learning etc.

However, there are certain differences that set CBE apart from other teaching and learning practices. With a keen focus on societal and sustainability issues, CBE involves stakeholders from multiple settings. Students from different disciplines bring in varied perspectives to solve the same challenge making the approach interdisciplinary. Students learn by doing, being led forward by the embedded call to action, demanding a verifiable and urgent solution to the challenge at hand. To support this process, educators take on the role of facilitators and sometimes even co-investigators.