Challenge Based Learning – What’s The Big Idea?

The ADE institute in Cork was inspiring in a multitude of different ways. However, one of the seminars in particular, resonated with me. It introduced me to the power of CBL, or challenge based learning, and the impact multi-disciplinary, real-life learning could have on students. Perhaps though, I should say re-introduced as Jenny O’Fee, the Head of Primary at The International School of Monaco, has long been an advocate of similar practice and indeed, developed the ISM Exhibition around this concept.

Challenge Based Learning Continuum

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The Big Idea

The process starts with a Big Idea; a broad but engaging concept that forms the umbrella under which all the resulting work resides.  I decided that each year group would have the following Big Ideas and relate them all back to our school. (Links are to the accompanying blogs)

The Essential Question

Next came the formation of the Essential Question.  The students used the Big Ideas to formulate of a whole host questions that connected them back to King’s, eventually each year group/class (depending on context) narrowed their thoughts to one Essential Question. Padlet proved to be a great tool to complete this process, as every single member of each class participated and voiced their ideas. This is of particular significance when considering the importance student ownership and engagement has within CBL.

The essential questions each year group/class decided upon are:

Year 5

  •  “How Can We Help Keep Our Community Safe On Line?”


  • “Rochester Castle is decayed on the outside, but what secrets lie behind those walls?
  • “Rochester Cathedral is on our doorstep, but has it revealed all its secrets?”
  • “King’s School has existed for over 1400 years, but what do we actually know?”

Year 7

  • “How Can We Plant For Future Generations?”
  • “Do we re-cycle enough at King’s?
  • “By re-using old equipment at King’s, can we make our school more sustainable?”

Year 8

  • “Could the lobby TV inspire us to make a difference at King’s?”

The Challenge

Each class has now sub-divided into smaller groups, and within those groups children have developed their own individual focus of study. They are now developing their next steps and already I have seen plans to collaborate with peers, teachers, experts in their communities and around the world. They are keen to utilise the technologies at their disposal and incredibly excited to create solutions that will result in concrete, purposeful action.

Like them, I can’t wait to see where the journey takes us…


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