Fundamental Concepts of Team-Based Learning (TBL)

Are large group lectures really conducive to learning? This question has been hotly debated and led to innovative new strategies for increasing student engagement and retention. One such strategy is team-based learning (TBL). TBL combines individual work, team work, and immediate feedback. The goal is to provide students with opportunities to apply their knowledge through collaborative decision making and active small group discussions.

In team-based learning, students are organized into diverse teams of five to seven students. Each class is typically equivalent to one learning “module” that involves three steps:

  1. Pre-Class Preparation. Students are required to complete materials before class, often through assigned reading or reviewing a pre-recorded lecture. This step ensures that each student is ready to contribute to team exercises and discussions. Pre-learning also means that less content needs to be covered in the classroom.
  1. In-Class Readiness Assurance Testing. The Individual Readiness Assessment Test (IRAT) and the Group Readiness Assessment Test (GRAT) are essential components of TBL. These tests serve as a gauge for student comprehension. 

Leo, our enterprise software platform, simplifies the TBL experience. With Leo's digital scratch-off tool, you can write questions that encourage teamwork and collaboration while only requiring the submission of answers from a single team member on GRATs. You can use class time to reference the results of the tests and review any material that students are struggling to understand. 

  1. Application-Focused Exercise. The rest of the module is dedicated to small group exercises to help students apply what they have learned. Teams are presented with a problem and have to come to a consensus on the best solution from a set of options. Teams share their chosen solution with the rest of the class, and you can then facilitate a classroom discussion on the topic. 

For team-based learning to be successful, modules need to be thoughtfully curated with these elements in mind: 

Team Formation. Each group of students should be intentionally diverse, with a range of demonstrated knowledge, ability, personal background and demographics. As these teams are typically fixed for the entirety of the course, they will have a substantial impact on the learning experience.

Student Accountability. Part of the purpose of pre-learning and readiness assurance testing is to encourage students to take ownership of their learning process. Be prepared to reinforce the importance of consistently completing these steps. 

Balancing Learning and Team Development. The team exercises in particular need to be designed in a way that promotes both learning and team development. Students should be prompted to think critically about how to apply the concepts they learned through the pre-class assignments and tests, and the problem-solving process should encourage students to improve their communication and collaboration skills. 

Immediate Feedback. Frequent and immediate feedback is essential to student knowledge, retention, and team development. This primarily occurs through the individual and team readiness assurance tests. Answers are discussed by the class as a whole, and clarification is provided by the instructor. Through this process, students should gain an awareness of any gaps in their understanding and be prompted to think critically about any incorrect answers. 

To effectively engage students in team-based learning, a software platform that enables you to easily share content and review student progress is key. Leo acts as a one-stop shop for these and many other teaching modalities —contact us today to learn more!