Team-Based Learning

Team-based learning is a structured, small-group learning method that has been associated with a variety of positive outcomes, including increased attendance, improved student preparation for learning, increased achievement, and development of student collaboration skills.1 The major components of team-based learning include: (A) strategically-formed, permanent teams, (B) readiness assurance, (C) application activities, and (D) peer evaluations. 

Forming Teams

To implement team-based learning in your class, begin by strategically forming teams of students. First, gather information about students’ background. Then, based on this prior knowledge, create heterogeneous groups (e.g., some students with more and less knowledge of the topic) of 5 to 7 students.  Students will work in these groups throughout the semester to promote relationship-building and open discussions.

Readiness-Assurance Process

Each major unit of your course should begin with a sequence of events called the “readiness assurance” process. 

Individuals Prepare for Class

First, students independently prepare for a class topic by completing outside of class assignments.  This might include reading articles or chapters from a textbook, watching video clips, or listening to audio clips. Next, during class, students engage in a series of activities to ensure they understand the information presented during class preparation. 

Individual Readiness Assurance Test [iRAT]

Class starts with the individual readiness assurance test – a multiple-choice assessment of students’ understanding of the concepts presented during class preparation.  After students complete this assessment, they submit their individual answers, which will contribute to a portion of their grade.

Team Readiness Assurance Test [tRAT]

Students convene in their groups in the second step and complete the same assessment again. After each team collectively decides on and reaches consensus on a single answer for each test item, the groups indicate or submit their responses and receive immediate feedback on whether their response is correct.  One way to provide immediate feedback is to use “scratch off” cards (yes, like the lottery). After all teams have submitted their answers, teams are allowed to appeal any answers that they feel were marked incorrectly.  These appeals should include clear statements about why they selected their answer, providing evidence supporting the idea that that answer was correct.

Targeted Lectures as Needed

Following this step, you can offer a brief lecture to clarify any misconceptions revealed during the readiness assurance process.

4-S Activities

Once the readiness assurance process is complete, students should have a firm grasp on the fundamentals of the unit and they will be ready to apply that material to significant problems, cases and scenarios.  All teams should work on the same problem to enable teams to communicate their approaches and conclusions, and understand those of other teams. Application activities should entail teams selecting a specific solution among several, concrete options.  For example, you might provide your students with a case study and ask them to determine which among competing potential solutions is the best to address the problem described. After all teams have arrived at their respective decisions, they should report their decisions simultaneously. They can do this by posting their answers on the board or using technology such as “clickers.” You may also ask them to write a brief rationale for their choice, particularly if you modify the exercise so that more than one answer is viable.

Students Evaluate Team Members' Performance

The final step in team-based learning involves students’ evaluation of their group members’ performance, which will assist in assigning grades.  You can provide these peer evaluation opportunities throughout the semester and at the end of the semester.  You can choose to develop a peer evaluation instrument that includes closed-ended items (e.g., rate their level of agreement from strongly disagree to strongly agree) and/or open-ended items such as “what is one thing you appreciate about your teammate and one thing you would request of them?” You will compile these responses and provide a summary to each student that does not identify their teammates’ individual responses. 

Reference

(1) Michaelsen, L. & Sweet, M. (2008). Team-based learning. Thriving in Academe, 25(6), 5-8.