Tag Archives: PBL


Project-based learning (PBL) and challenge based learning (CBL) are two terms that have been on my mind recently. While I’ve heard of and used PBL before, the concept of CBL was new to me. At our COETAIL meeting in April we were asked to explore the similarities and differences between the two methods of teaching. During our discussion we came up with several ideas. Despite our brainstorming, I was left unclear about the fine line between the two modes of learning.

After reading Discovery, Problem and Challenged Based Learning by Stephen David Pearce I am more confortable distinguishing the two:


1. Both require the students to engage in a topic by creating questions, researching, and completion of a summative task.


1. PBL units do not necessarily need to be multidisciplinary, but it is a requirement of CBL.

2. CBL projects must allow students to take action to try to solve a real-world problem. PBL projects do not have this stipulation.

3. CBL units require students interact with people both from inside and outside of the class, either as partners, research subjects, or specialists. PBL does not make this requirement.

4. PBL is more teacher directed than CBL.

As I look at the list, the biggest difference is the requirement to attempt a solution to a real world problem.  As I reflect back on my own teaching, I can come up with numerous examples of how I have used both CBL and PBL in my teaching.

CBL: Recently my students completed their PYP exhibition. In this self-directed unit of study the students tried to solve a real world problem. During this unit the students looked at how they can work with an organization to provide support for an issue of importance to them. This year the students mainly focused on NGO’s and how through various means people can get involved and make a difference with an NGO.

In order to successfully complete the unit students needed to: 1. Select a big issue they were passionate about (clean air, child poverty, access to educational technology). 2. Find an NGO that supports their big issue. 3. Research the NGO to see if they think it is one that they could support. 4. Make contact with their NGO. 5. Use written and oral communication skills. 6. Create a plan to get involved with their NGO.

PBL: Earlier in the year my students looked at media and its influence. My teaching partner and I knew that we wanted students to be able to create a successful multimedia campaign for a product of their choosing at the end of the unit. The aim was to convince investors to give them money.

In order to be successful in this project the students had to 1. Demonstrate media literacy 2. Demonstrate ICT skills 3. Understand how to persuade people 4. Use written and oral skills

This example of a PBL project had no connection to solving a real world problem (although it easily could be adapted to do so). However, the project does enable students to develop a skill that is necessary in today’s world (media literacy).

Both styles of teaching styles have a place in today’s world as the both provide teachers with a framework to encourage students to think critically about the material of learning. However, you cannot rely on either style to suit all situations. Much like clothing, when it comes to teaching styles, one size does not fit all.

Video Credits:

Project Based Learning: Explained found on YouTube uploaded by BIEPBL

Challenge Based Learning found on YouTube uploaded by CBLearning

Image Credits:

Personal Twitter screen capture taken using Skitch


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