Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Challenge Based Learning (CBL)-Across the District/ Part 1

I am a TED geek! I will sit around and watch TED talks just for fun. Two of my favorite talks are from Dr. Brene Brown; The Power of Vulnerability and Listening to Shame. I believe I have watched them both at least three or four time each.  Their principles came to mind last week during a conversation with my boss about the collaborative Challenge Based Learning (CBL) project we are currently involved in. This is a voluntary project that involves five educators who serve eight schools throughout The School District of Manatee County.  Since  the concept of CBL is new for the other educators involved there has been a bit of a learning curve with this process. Truthfully, I feel that the vulnerability and bravery that these educators have shown is quite heroic. It takes a lot of courage to volunteer for a project that forces you step out of your comfort zone and give up some control to your students. With CBL, the educator is asked to no longer be “The Sage on the Stage", but to becoming a guide for their students.  It takes a paradigm shift to leap into a project with no idea what your end product will look like and allow students to help guide decisions on every aspect of a project. Although, I feel this shift is necessary for student to truly become problem solvers it is a tough change for us, as educators, to make.

 So far we have worked with our students to define what a natural disaster is and what it is not. As well as, guiding them through the  task of identifying, generating and evaluating questions that both relate to our Big Idea and whose answers will lead us to helping others. I feel that although tough and a bit uncomfortable, guiding students as they fight their way from a Big Idea to a Challenge is such an important step and is chalked full of critical thinking skills. Plus, the world doesn’t hand us problems neatly tied up with a bow. Rather than just assigning their students a challenge these educators have remained in the process. The whole time being open and honest about the struggles that have occurred. I feel that for REAL learning to occur it is going to take this type of vulnerability and bravery.

Honestly, it would have been easier to give an hour and half presentation on CBL and walk away. It would have been safer for me and I could have left others thinking I had it all together. However, the very nature of CBL asked the educator to remain in process. I guess right now that means remaining active in this journey not just with my students, but with my peers as well.  I had not realized how much the process had become part of our routine and slowing down to explain it to others has been so beneficial. I have been forced to examine, evaluate, and revise some of the tools and conversations happening within our laboratory's four walls. At first, coming at CBL from this angle had me feeling a bit vulnerable but, WOW am I glad I have leaped here.

As I close, I would like to take the time to give a few shout outs. At the start of this endeavor, I happen to come in contact with some incredible educators from Wonga Park Primary School in Australia who are implementing CBL schoolwide. They have been wonderful about sharing resources and ideas. My personal thanks goes out to Adele Brice (@adelebrice on Twitter) for taking the time to send so many helpful documents. Adele you are fabulous!  Also, a HUGE thank you goes to my friend, Katie Morrow, from O'Neill, Nebraska for her constant encouragement and the many resources she has shared. Katie, you know I think you ROCK!  Finally, to Kim Hicks, Carolyn Wignet, Sandra Marks and Ms. Jacquline thanks for being so incredibly brave and venturing out on this journey. You all are so AMAZING and are quickly becoming some of my real life heroes. 


  1. Francie, your energy and encouragement are stellar and I appreciate your confidence and support. This project has become less of a "project" and more of a way of a re-framing learning process for both me and my students. I will continue to prove that 7 and 8 year olds can be part of this process and have a voice that is important to the world. Thanks for sharing your vast level of knowledge and mentoring us though the process- Carolyn Winget

  2. An awesome blog...totally honored to be mentioned! Thrilled to know that it has helped you out.
    Great to collaborate with you and look forward to further contact in the future. Look forward to hearing how it goes,
    Adele Brice.