Introducing the Challenge Based Science Learning Toolkit - Digital Promise

Introducing the Challenge Based Science Learning Toolkit

February 12, 2020 | By

Designed to address the need for open educational resources that support student-driven learning in science, our new Challenge Based Science Learning Toolkit guides educators in developing science units that build on student interest, lead to deeper learning, and engage students in using science to solve problems in their community.

The Challenge Based Science Learning Toolkit was developed through the Challenge Based Science Learning Challenge Collaborative, which brought educators, researchers and curriculum experts together to develop science units aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) using the Challenge Based Learning (CBL) framework. The Challenge Collaborative also aimed to gain a better understanding of how Deeper Learning can occur in student-centered science classrooms. Included in the toolkit are teacher-designed units prompting students to engage with a phenomena, put it in context of their community, investigate ways to solve the challenge it poses, and then develop solution concepts.

About the Design of the Toolkit

The Challenge Collaborative involved multiple rounds of curriculum design, piloting, and iteration, relying on feedback from teachers and observations from the research team to create a clearer picture of how students can drive their own learning in standards-driven science classrooms.

To set the stage for identifying challenges that are both scientifically rigorous and authentic, students need opportunities to build context and knowledge before they can effectively identify challenges to solve and investigate. The Challenge Based Learning framework offers flexibility for students to use science and engineering practices and crosscutting concepts early in the unit, giving students more agency in determining how they choose to investigate later in the unit. The research from the Challenge Collaborative found that when students were engaged in the Challenge Based Science Learning process, they were provided more opportunities for real-world engagement, self-direction, practice of science and engineering skills, conducting critical research, substantive collaboration, and effective communication.

The design process, resources, and examples of challenge based science units created and piloted during this project are compiled in the Challenge Based Science Learning Toolkit.

Use the Challenge Based Science Learning Toolkit to design or remix materials for your context

Challenge Based Science Learning aims to make science education more authentic and challenging for students by asking them to solve problems in their communities; as such, the example units provided should be modified to include local connections for the challenge, investigative activities, and audience to which they will present their solutions.

The templates and design process guide provide direction and context for identifying useful phenomena that represent a problem to be solved, brainstorming potential student questions and challenges, and finding open educational resources to support student investigations. The toolkit also includes Deeper Learning rubrics which serve as a guide to study the extent to which science and engineering activities provide deeper learning opportunities, and in what ways students are learning deeply through these activities. Use the toolkit to remix one of the teacher-designed units or other science resources, or design a unit from scratch, and share the unit with us at

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Want to know more about the Challenge Based Science Learning Collaborative? Find more resources here:

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