Challenge Based Learning is informed by two research projects and a growing number of studies applying the framework to a variety of different content areas. Information from formal research projects along with insights from the informal action research built into the framework influence the framework as it continues to evolve.

2008 Pilot Project Study

In the fall of 2008, Apple, Inc worked with the New Media Consortium to conduct a pilot study with six schools from across the country with one-to-one laptop initiatives in place. Both teachers and students found challenge based learning effective and engaging. Fully 97 percent of the 321 students involved found the experience worthwhile. More so, when disaggregated by teacher, 73 percent of the faculty were able to engage every single student in their classes; the data for those classes shows student satisfaction rates of a remarkable 100 percent. Teachers unequivocally also rated the experience as positive, with every one of the 27 pilot faculty reporting that work of the students exceeded their expectations. All but one faculty member reported that the kids embraced the topic eagerly and worked well together and almost three-quarters noted positive changes in student attitude and behaviors. Students self-reported that they were learning and refining skills that closely matched those identified by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

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2011 Implementation Study

The purposes of the Challenge Based Learning Implementation Study (CBLi) were two-fold, and blended in some ways the long-standing boundaries between outcomes- and process-focused evaluation and more traditional educational research. The first purpose was to determine if the outcomes and findings of the pilot could be replicated and extended beyond the purely high school focus of the pilot to other educational levels and settings, especially as they fall into four areas: the overall student experience; the overall teacher experience; the match of CBL learning outcomes (particularly informal learning outcomes) with key skills described in “Framework for 21st Century Learning”; and the learning goals for the time devoted to the work.

The second was to add additional understanding of several aspects of the school ecosystem that may influence the success of challenge based learning. Among these are the importance of training and support in the implementation of CBL; the impact of student groups on outcomes; a greater understanding of the skills and resources needed for a teacher to successfully implement CBL; and a sense of if (and how) a CBL approach might extend learning to times and places outside the traditional classroom.

With these goals in mind, the CBLi project launched in January 2011, with a meeting of the 56 teachers participating in the effort. The primary goal of the two-day workshop was to ensure the participants understood CBL well enough to implement it to a baseline standard, with the secondary goal of giving them dedicated time to identify a big idea for their school, tease out essential questions, and frame their challenges. The 19 schools and universities involved then worked to implement those challenges through late May 2011.

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Additional Research:

Using Challenge Based Learning to Teach the Fundamentals of Exponential Equations
Jeff Kastner, Joni Torsella, Anant R. Kukreti
University of Cincinnati

Student Understanding of the Engineering Design Process Using Challenge Based Learning
Whitney Gaskins, Anant R. Kukreti, Catherine Maltbie, Julie Steimle
University of Cincinnati

Combining Challenge-Based Learning and Scrum Framework for Mobile Application Development
Alan R. Santos, Afonso Sales, Paulo Fernandes, Mark Nichols