The purposes of the Challenge Based Learning Implementation Study (CBLi) by the New Media Consortium 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 was 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.