CBL Solutions and What They Might Look Like

-My whole team at the beginning of CBL

-My whole team at the beginning of CBL

My students worked on Challenge-Based Learning solutions in groups for the first time this term. I want to share what their solutions were in order to give readers an idea of the range of ideas students came up with on their own, and their varying degrees of success in implementing those ideas.

When my team first started CBL, it was really difficult to get our collective head around what we might expect students to come up with as a solution, so we pestered our CBL expert teacher, Bec, for ideas on what challenge solutions might look like. She pushed back on this and told us we didn’t need to have the ideas, that the kids would get there. We kept on pestering and eventually she relented and gave us a few examples of what kind of outcome we might see, but with the stipulation that we had to let the students come up with ideas, and not try and feed them our own ideas and make them think it was their own.

Now I’m 3 terms of CBL in, and with Bec’s philosophy in mind, here are some examples of what grade 2s can come up with and do on their own. Without my own brilliant ideas. I promise.

Big Idea: Power
Challenge: Use power in a positive way.

Photo 113 1

Green and Yellow Groups: Body Power

Photo 133 2

Both of these groups independently decided to make a fitness/exercise club that ran at break times. Both groups came up with a plan of how their club would run; one group wanted to play a charades game that would involve participants guessing the exercise, then completing it, and the other group simply had a list of exercises and were going to show participants how to do them correctly, then have everyone complete the exercise. Both groups made poster ads to hang around the school using the Pic Collage app and spoke to grades about the clubs they were running. The clubs started off with a bang but petered out quickly for a few reasons (memory, enthusiasm, students not getting along, etc.). I think the fact that grade 2s can run a successful club for other students without any help from teachers is quite impressive!  One of the groups did a powerful reflection on what went well, what went wrong and how they could change it, and made significant improvements to their plan to help their club run better.

Purple Group: Choice Power


Purple group chose to write a persuasive letter to the Prime Minister of Australia to convince him to hire more builders to build free homes for homeless people. This was quite powerful for this group when they actually received a response from Tony Abbott, which, among other things, congratulated them on being so passionate about important issues and reminded them that as the future leaders of our country, they should continue to champion causes that are important to them. (The letter carefully evaded the issue of building people free homes, but my students are inspired to become PM nonetheless).

Blue Group: People Power

Purple group’s solution was to make an ad that told the world that we don’t want bullies. They wrote and filmed and edited a video using iMovie on an iPad and shared their solution with the world through the class blog. Blog post here.

Pink group: Body Power

Pink group’s solution was also a video. They wanted to make a short video that would encourage people to exercise every day. They wanted to share it with the world by advertising it on our class blog and Twitter. It did not get shared in the end because of the time it took to film and some techie difficulties which meant they had to remake their entire work. Their video involved them doing a range of exercises and some text about the names of exercises and what people should do to get fit.

Orange Group: Electrical Power

This group decided on a persuasive blog post about using electricity sparingly and some tips on how to use it better. Their post can be viewed here.


Where to next

As this was the first time students worked in small groups to complete a task of their own devising, the focus was on understanding the task ahead of them, and on individual roles and responsibilities of the members in each group.  Now that we have a firm grasp on that, the next round of CBL solutions will have more of a focus on the quality of the outputs, rather than just ‘getting it done’. For example, the ‘No Bullies Allowed’ video group might work on coming up with a list of helpful tips for not being a bully, and valuing friendship, and work on making sure the dialogue in their video is easy to hear. Or the exercise video group might contact teachers to see if they could show it to their class every morning for students to get warmed up before starting the day, so that their solution has a genuine audience and will make a difference.

Overall I am really happy with the variety and quality of my students’ (and my own) first attempt at group CBL solutions. I am constantly amazed at the way my students come along for the ride when I think I might be pushing them too far. It is truly amazing what a bunch of 8 year olds can do when you don’t tell them they can’t.

If you have something of your own about CBL solutions, please share. I would love to see it!


11 thoughts on “CBL Solutions and What They Might Look Like

  1. Emily,

    Great post! It has been a pleasure watching you learn and grow through CBL this year! Good on you for getting out there and sharing the amazing things your students are doing…the skills they are developing through this approach go far beyond what they would be achieving from more traditional teaching and learning methods.

    It is always amazing to see what students can accomplish when you get out of the way.

    Hopefully your post encourages others to do the same…




    • Hi Bec,
      Thanks for the feedback. Also thanks for the support… I guess I am getting the hang of it now. And hopefully I can help someone who is as stuck as I felt to get going! The kids really are producing some amazing stuff! Can’t wait for the ones this term.


  2. Hi Emily,
    That was a great post and very enlightening! Your students have done an amazing job! Do you have a big idea each term? What have other big ideas been? I may ask you more questions later on about the process if that’s okay 🙂


    • Hi Michelle,
      Thanks for the feedback! Yes we have a different big idea and essential question each term. This year we’ve done community, systems, power and now change. I think next on the list is identity. Feel free to ask questions, I’ll try and write some more posts if it’s helpful.
      Also I completely stole your idea about a way to use Thinglink and did a similar thing with my kids and it went beautifully! Thanks for the idea!


  3. This is really enlightening, and really inspiring!
    Congratulations Em. You should be really proud of your efforts so far with CBL. It’s only going to get better, and your current and future students will be all the better for it as learners and citizens of this world.
    Kudos to you 🙂


  4. Hi Emily and 2B. I am very proud of your achievements. I often talk about wanting students at our school being active learners. Well this is a perfect example of this. Well done. I hope to use some of this blog post in my next newsletter so I can share with the school community of how proud I am. Hope it is ok with you.


  5. Love seeing the learning that is happening along the way especially thinking and acting upon the ‘quality of output rather than getting it done. Student enthusuasm, skill development and use of technology is fantastic- Well done year 2’s.’
    Ms Murray


    • Thanks Di – I think this term’s solutions will really go up a step in quality now that the groundwork is laid and the reflections by the kids at the end of last term were really good.


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