Discovery, Problem and Challenged Based Learning

It is my belief that educators must now consider how learning has changed  (if they haven’t done so already) and how they can adapt their pedagogies to facilitate the learning of our current and future student population.In the light of advances and changes in technology we need to consider how we can capture the minds of our youth and continue to inspire them to learn and develop as independent learners.

Our learners have now become producers and publishers and have moved on from the consumers of pure content. They have access to the Internet, which offers a variety of worldwide media. They have the ability to create inspiring content by using digital technologies and simple software applications that they can now publish to an eager and awaiting world-wide crowd.

Using Apple’s (ACOT2) Report as reference, I have looked at a variety of different learning methodologies that encapsulate 21st Century Learning, (Discovery based learning, Problem based learning and Challenged based learning) these methodologies link together to form a multidisciplinary approach to teaching and learning for today’s classroom and learning environments.

(ACOT2Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow – Today –  is a collaborative project to help high schools get closer to creating the kind of learning environment this generation of students needs, wants, and expects so they will stay in school.”

This report identifies 6 Key principles that assist in developing the learning environment for learners of today and the future, these principles are illustrated in the diagram below:

6 Principles for Learning in 21st Century Schools 

There are 3 key learning methodologies that I believe enhance and aid 21st Century classrooms and learning; they include all the 6 principles as shown above. These are briefly outlined here:

Learning Methodologies:

  1. Discovery based learning:  is an inquiry-based, constructivist learning theory that takes place in problem solving situations where the learner draws on his or her own past experience and existing knowledge to discover facts and relationships and new truths to be learned. Learners interact with the world by exploring and manipulating objects, wrestling with questions and controversies, or performing experiments. As a result, learners may be more likely to remember concepts and knowledge discovered on their own.
  2.  Problem based learning:  is a learner-centered pedagogy in which students learn about a subject in the context of complex, multifaceted, and realistic problems. Working in groups, or individually, students identify what they already know, what they need to know, and how and where to access new information that may lead to resolution of the problem. The role of the educator is to ask probing questions, provide appropriate resources, and lead class discussions, as well as designing student assessments.
  3. Challenged based learning: is an engaging multidisciplinary approach to teaching and learning that encourages students to leverage the technology they use in their daily lives to solve real-world problems. Challenge Based Learning is collaborative and hands-on, asking students to work with other students, their teachers, and experts in their communities and around the world to develop deeper knowledge of the subjects students are studying, accept and solve challenges, take action, share their experience, and enter into a global discussion about important issues. Here is a link to an excellent document produced by Apple to assist educators with Challenged Based Learning. Challenged based learning is based on the following framework:

Recently, the teaching and learning at the Republic Polytechnic of Singapore inspired me, with their use of Problem Based learning. By using (PBL) their key objective is to add value to each student’s intellectual make-up in terms of problem-solving process skills, life-long learning attitude and ready-to-use knowledge. They believe graduates will be knowledgeable team players who have acquired skills necessary to handle situations, tackle problems and complete tasks in a knowledge-driven environment.

Although none of these concepts (learning methodologies) are new and have been used in education with varying degrees of uptake for several years, I believe that now they have become even more prominent and important pedagogies, especially with the increasing number of 1:1 Laptop Schools. Using Challenged based learning (or any of the methodologies mentioned above) provides:

• A multiple entry point strategy and varied and multiple possible solutions

• A focus on universal challenges with local solutions

• An authentic connection with multiple disciplines

• An opportunity to develop 21st century skills

• The purposeful use of Web 2.0 tools for organizing, collaborating, and publishing

• The opportunity for students to do something rather than just learn about something

• The documentation of the learning experience from challenge to solution

• 24/7 access to up-to-date technology tools and resources so students can do their work

All the methods of learning help to engage learners, provide them with valuable 21st Century skills, which span the divide between formal and informal learning, and embrace a student’s digital life. I encourage you to look further at some of the links here in this Blog to find out further information of how these pedagogical methods can aid and develop learning in your schools as they have done so in mine. (

Written by Steven David Pearce 20/4/2011


5 thoughts on “Discovery, Problem and Challenged Based Learning

  1. I really love this post. As a Librarian, I think discovery-based or inquiry learning is very important. My question however is this: what are the major differences between the three learnings you have listed? The descriptions all blend together for me.

    • Hi Kathleen
      Thank you for your comment and I couldn’t agree more with what you are saying. I suppose, I have listed them in order of historical educational usage. For example, I believe that we first used the phrase Discovery Based Learning (Bruner) which was based around inquiry and investigative learning using a variety of resources, but not necessarily technology at that time. As educators, we then moved on to Problem Based Learning where a specific problem is identified and either a group or individual works on finding an answer to the problem using a variety of resources, including technology. Then we now use the term Challenged Based Learning, which encapsulates all of the above and uses a variety of resources, the topic area is also normally based on some “crisis area’ on our planet, which is real in context, the learner uses technology for research and to produce creatively the final outcome that is published globally. So basically they do all blend together, but each description/methodology takes the inquiry based learning a step further.

  2. The main difference between PBL and CBL is the shift to learner ownership. In PBL most of the work is done by the teacher to get the project ready. In CBL a Challenge is presented, and then the learners take off through the framework to create a possible solution.

  3. Reblogged this on English Techie and commented:
    “The main difference between PBL and CBL is the shift to learner ownership. In PBL most of the work is done by the teacher to get the project ready. In CBL a Challenge is presented, and then the learners take off through the framework to create a possible solution.”

  4. Pingback: CBL and PBL | mrbrenlea

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