Smells Like Team Spirit

Nirvana CheerleadersI was recently directed to the Team-Based Learning™ Collaborative (TBLC).* Membership in the TBLC costs money, but its website contains a lot of useful information. There are five components of Team-Based Learning™:

First, an instructor organizes students into permanent teams, with the goal of making each team as diverse as possible according to a set of instructor-selected criteria. I disagree with the idea of keeping students in the same teams for an entire semester, but I can understand the rationale behind it. I do recommend whether teams last for some or all of a course that the majority of the individual student’s final grade not be dependent upon team performance.

Second, students engage in pre-class preparation to gain the background knowledge that they will need to begin solving problems in class. Preparation occurs outside of the classroom, through reading and answering reading-related questions.

Third, students are tested individually and as teams during class, to ensure that everyone has acquired the necessary background knowledge. If necessary, the instructor can clarify particular topics with a mini-lecture.

Fourth, teams discuss problem-based questions and engage in collective decision making. This phase can include writing exercises if the instructor chooses. Teams simultaneously report their decisions using flash cards, which leads to discussion across teams and with the instructor.

The final stage is peer evaluation.

The TBLC also emphasizes backwards design, where learning outcomes are identified first and activities that are likely to help students attain them second.

*I have no financial interest in this trademarked product.