Unintended Consequences with Challenge Based Learning

I have planned and coached several Challenge Based Learning experiences over the last few years.  Since students have so much control over these projects, the direction the teams take vary considerably.  Always for me, the unexpected outcomes provide considerable excitement and anxiety.  Fortunately, I have found that the unexpected triumphs have far outnumbered the failures, which is why I continue to forge ahead using the CBL principles.

This semester, I assigned a modified CBL with the following challenge:

Create a video on a policy about which you care, which has measurable impact.

As I told the students, since they were taking a political science course, the most essential (and most difficult) piece of the assignment involved assessment.  And fortunately, all the challenge teams did indeed develop legitimate means of testing for the impact of their messaging.  As I had hoped,  to what they learned through planning, researching and consulting about their survey plans, they gleaned almost as much from the post mortems we conducted after the studies were implemented.

When I issued the challenge, I emphasized that I did not expect the students– without training– to produce slick videos.  Nevertheless, each of the teams did significant research on visual messaging.  In fact all three groups consulted with at least one accomplished videographer who reviewed their work during the production.

Consequently, though I was attempting to teach political science, my students learned important lessons about  video production– an entirely unanticipated outcome.  With their permission I’ve shared one, below:


Larry Baker

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