BUU44540 Grand Challenges

(20 ECTS) 


Eleanor Saunders

Email: ELSAUNDE@tcd.ie 
Office Hours: By appointment

Module Description: 

“We are all Learners. We are all teachers. By moving beyond the traditional hierarchy of the University and lecture theatre, we can create environments where all stakeholders are working together to meet academic objectives while solving authentic Challenges”
- CBL Guide, 2016

Challenge Based Learning (CBL) provides a clear and effective framework for learning while activity engaging in real world issues and providing tangible and feasible solutions to personally identified challenges. The framework is collaborative and hands-on, whereby all participants (students, lecturers, TAs, peers, stakeholders, and community) engage with Big Ideas, ask good questions, discover their collective capabilities, solve identified challenges, gain in-depth subject area knowledge, develop systemic leadership skills, adapt to learnings and feedback, and showcase their work. 

During each step of the CBL process, participants document using text, video, audio and pictures. The module is held within leadership development theory that shapes the initial challenge formation by directing questioning from a leadership development perspective. A portfolio is developed according to evidencing leadership competencies, and the final presentation and essay relate the material back to leadership principles.

“Leadership is an action everyone can take. Not a position that a few people can hold”
- Paul Schmitz, Collective Impact Forum

The module is assessed through a competency based portfolio, an action plan, and leadership reflection essay. In addition participants design parts of the module through peer assessment and feedback strategies, and inviting and hosting their own speakers relevant to the challenges collectively chosen.

Learning & Teaching Approach:

The module has two intertwined elements: CBL process and competency based leadership development. The two elements complement each other with CBL providing an autonomous structure for personalised leadership development that leverages the strengths of the individual business student; and leadership development providing a competency based touch point to ground the learning and give it immediate applicability.

Learning Outcomes: 

There are 8 module level learning outcomes. Each outcome captures a leadership skill and is elaborated with a learning description. Competencies developed under each outcome are listed.

  1. Leadership: Understand how to apply content knowledge of leadership competencies and theory in a challenge based context including the ability to identify challenges, draw on experience (existing knowledge), input (applied leadership theory), and information (research outcomes), enact appropriate actions and capture learnings and reflect.
  2. Creative thinking: Use own (or group) creative capacity to generate actionable solutions to identified challenges.
    • Leadership competencies:
      • Leveraging empathy, hosting creative spaces, and negotiation 
  3. Initiating transformation: Use own (or group) leadership and business capacity to prototype solutions through real actions to overcome identified challenges
    • Leadership competencies:
      • Enabling innovation and change, courage to start (and adaptively learn from success and failure) and decision making
  4. Communication: Successfully communicate ideas, and facilitate conversations, to develop your research, goals, network, or empathy
    • Leadership competencies: 
      • Using inclusive communication, engaging partners (team/others) and shaping culture
  5. Collaboration: Foster networks that value personal growth, inclusivity, and creativity 
    • Leadership competencies:
      • Managing stress and conflict, providing and receiving feedback and Building relationships.
  6. Self-awareness: Recognise own emotions, values, purpose and drivers and how these influence your leadership style 
    • Leadership competencies: 
      • Being authentic, using emotional intelligence and taking agency
  7. Synthesis: Develop logical connections between research, actions taken, work done, skills developed, and competencies built.
    • Leadership competencies:
      • Reflective practice and adaptability
  8. Readiness: Prepare oneself to engage with grand challenges beyond graduation and be proactive in future business

Textbooks and Required Resources: 

Required core course textbook(s):

  1. C. Otto Scharmer (2009) Theory U: Leading from the Future as It Emerges
  2. David and Tom Kelley (2014 – William Collins) Creative Confidence
  3. Digital promise (2016) CBL guide

General Supplemental Readings: There are a range of readings drawn from relevant academic and ‘grey’ literature which will be provided to students via the Blackboard site.

The main preparation for this module is the completion of the Business programme to date, coupled with an interest in leadership development and courageous challenge tackling. Students are also encouraged to begin to think about what values they hold and their own belief system in terms of approaching global challenges and leading for the future.


  1. Challenge Plan (30%) 
    • Investigation review and action plan
  2. Student Hosted Session (10%)
    • Curate a session and invite a speaker
  3. Portfolio (30%)
    • Presentation, Q&A, Portfolio
  4. Leadership Essay (30%)
    • 3000 word essay on personal leadership development through CBL