Challenge-Based Learning

Students as partners work on real-life problems – thinking global, acting local

Challenge-Based Learning (CBL) is a pedagogical approach that actively engages students in a situation that is real, relevant and related to their environment (Tecnologico de Monterrey 2015). It takes places through the identification, analysis and design of a solution to a sociotechnical problem. The learning experience is typically multidisciplinary, involves different stakeholder perspectives, and aims to find a collaboratively developed solution, which is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable. (Kohn Rådberg et al. 2020, p 22)

The Challenge-Based Learning Framework is divided into three interconnected phases:

  1. Engage (in which the Learners move from an abstract big idea to a concrete and actionable challenge),

  2. Investigate (in which Learners conduct research to create a foundation for actionable and sustainable solutions) and

  3. Act (in which evidence-based solutions are developed and implemented with an authentic audience and the results evaluated).

Each phase includes activities that prepare students to move to the next phase. Within each of the phases there are opportunities for mini-investigation cycles and if necessary a return to an earlier phase. Supporting the entire process is an ongoing process of documentation, reflection and sharing.

Mixed student teams are the core of CBL. Whenever possible student teams are made up of students from various backgrounds, levels and study programs. They work together with researcher, entrepreneurs or municipalities to find solutions to current challenges. In CBL teachers are explicitly referred to as learners. Eldebo et al. (2022) identified three roles for teachers that are required in CBL:

(1) the role of teacher, which is knowledge-oriented;

(2) the role of coach, which is student skills oriented; and

(3) the role of organizer, which is oriented toward the challenge framework.

The description reminds you of Project based learning that is already established at TUHH? Yes, indeed!
Both approaches have much in common. Find an overview of multiple inquiry-based formats here (scroll a bit down)

If you have any further questions or need specific support, please do not hesitate to contact us.

We would be pleased to help you with the design of the concrete process. You will be surprised how much you can move with small changes.


Siska Simon
Phone 040 42878 4628
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Dorothea Ellinger
Telefon 040 42878 4819
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CBL in more Detail …

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additional materials and workshops

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Links And Literature

additional literature, links to educational resouces and downloads
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This informational webpage about Challenge-Based Learning is part of an Innovation of Ecucation lab of ECIU university and a product of workpackage 3.

The European Commission’s support for the production of the ECIU University content does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.