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ERIC Number: ED505102
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 44
Abstractor: ERIC
ISBN: ISBN-978-0-9765-0874-8
Challenge-Based Learning: An Approach for Our Time
Johnson, Laurence F.; Smith, Rachel S.; Smythe, J. Troy; Varon, Rachel K.
New Media Consortium
Study after study documents the skills the American workforce needs to stay competitive in a global marketplace, yet increasingly employers are compelled to look overseas for those skills. The authors advocate for a different manner of thinking, focused on engaging students in work that is relevant to the world they see, encouraging them to take on actual problems rather than teaching problem-solving. This report describes a pilot project in "challenge-based learning," which builds on the practice of problem-based learning. Students work on real-world problems in collaborative teams, but with key distinctions that add a great deal of relevancy for students. At the center of challenge-based learning is a call to action that inherently requires students to make something happen: they are compelled to research their topic, brainstorm strategies and solutions that are both credible and realistic in light of time and resources, and then develop and execute one of those solutions that addresses the challenge in ways both they themselves and others can see and measure. Six case studies are presented: (1) Thirty-seven students and five teachers involved spent one week researching how food is produced, the impact of production and distribution on the environment, how different foods contribute to or detract from a person's health, and how to make appropriate food choices, creating a Mythbusters-like video to explain what they learned and to encourage healthy choices (Manor, Texas); (2) Forty-nine students researched World War I and created a multimedia website, including movies and podcasts, to tell the story of war, a Webquest to help visitors learn more on their own as they complete activities designed by the students, and a video to promote the website (Mooresville, North Carolina); (3) Each of the three participating classes (64 students total) researched and prepared presentations for administration and staff to propose ways to reduce the school's paper footprint; one group created a recycling awareness video; another created a rap video to encourage the school community to use less paper (Hayward, California); (4) Students worked in small groups to identify issues in the school community towards which students, staff, or others were apathetic (grades, animal abuse, caring for school-issued laptops, doing homework, school spirit), developed a plan for increasing engagement in their chosen issue; and created a video to explain the issue and propose their plan (O'Neill, Nebraska); (5) Two teachers and 96 students participated, with each teacher's students choosing a different big idea, essential question and challenge, creating an introductory video describing the idea challenge, then working in small groups to research the questions and propose solutions (Pratt, Kansas); and (6) Five teachers and 52 students explored the ways that cultural is understood and projected; one student group chose to share favorite ethnic foods in a video, describing why the food was important in the cultural tradition and even showing how to prepare it; another group's video included a cultural map of the school campus indicating where different groups of students spend their time; and a third group examined the kinds of activities and behaviors that show cultural ties between people (Honolulu, Hawaii). (Contains 34 footnotes.)
New Media Consortium. 6101 W. Courtyard Drive Building One Suite 100, Austin, TX 78730. Tel: 512-445-4200; Fax: 512-445-4205; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: New Media Consortium
Identifiers - Location: California; Hawaii; Kansas; Nebraska; North Carolina; Texas
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A