How to create CBL lesson plans

  • The Challenge –Based Learner User Guide (2016) elaborated by “Digital Promise and The Challenge Institute” teaches us how to design and implement CBL with learners of all ages (from young graders in primary schools, to university students or beyond), in various types and forms of educations (formal education, VET, adult education, entrepreneurial education, community education, etc.).
  • The Guide is for everyone students, teachers, parents, administrators and community members) interested in building learning communities focused on identifying Challenges and implementing thoughtful and sustainable solutions.

The Guide is organized into four sections:

  1. An overview of key concepts, the updated framework and ideas about implementation.
  2. Recommendations and resources to support the use of CBL.
  3. An in-depth walkthrough of the framework with examples, tips, and best practices.
  4. The final section includes connections with other educational approaches to assist with decision making and integration, and a list of frequently asked questions.

So, when you start creating a CBL lesson plan, make sure that you have read and understood the Guide and that you follow correctly all CBL framework steps!

Lets’ follow the CBL Guide….

Before doing that, we remind you that the CBL approach is different from traditional one, from problem-based learning or  project-based learning….so, the CBL lesson plan does not look like a traditional lesson plan!

You remember the 3 phases of CBL:

Phase 1: ENGAGE


Phase 3: ACT

We will explain what you need to plan and do for each of these stages, when creating a CBL lesson plan….

Phase 1: ENGAGE

Through a process of Essential Questioning, the Learners move from an abstract Big Idea to a concrete and actionable Challenge.

  1. Big Ideas are broad concepts that are explored in multiple ways and are relevant to the Learners, and the larger community (e.g. health).
  2. Essential Questioning allows the Learners to contextualize and personalize the Big Idea. The end product is a single Essential Question that is relevant to the individual or group (e.g. What do I need to do to be healthy?).
  3. Challenges turn the Essential Questions into a call to action by charging participants to learn about the subject and develop a Solution. Challenges are immediate and actionable.


All Learners plan and participate in a journey that builds the foundation for Solutions and addresses academic requirements.

  1. Guiding Questions point towards the knowledge the Learners will need to develop a Solution to the Challenge. Categorizing and prioritizing the questions create an organized learning experience. Guiding Questions will continue to emerge throughout the experience.
  2. Guiding Activities and Resources are used to answer the Guiding Questions developed by the Learners. These activities and resources include any and all methods and tools available to the Learners.
  3. Analysis of the lessons learned through the Guiding Activities provides a foundation for the eventual identification of Solutions.

Phase 3: ACT

Evidence-based Solutions are developed, implemented with an authentic audience, and then evaluated based on the results.

  1. Solution concepts emerge from the findings made during the investigation phase. Using the design cycle, the Learners will prototype, test and refine their Solution concepts.
  2. Implementation of the Solution takes place within a real setting with an authentic audience. The age of the Learners and the amount of time and resources available will guide the depth and breadth of the implementation.
  3. Evaluation provides the opportunity to assess the effectiveness of the Solution, make adjustments and deepen subject area knowledge.