Team-Based Learning (TBL) is an instructional method that aims to overcome some of the key concerns that staff and students have with group work projects. Two of the main issues are flip sides of the same coin – those students who ‘free-ride’ but end up with the same grade as everyone else in the group, and those students who put in considerably more work than the others in order to ensure that they get the grade that they want/deserve. It also aims to help students overcome the issues of working in teams for themselves, rather than tutors having to spend class time resolving group conflicts or teaching group-work skills.

The TBL approach adopts a highly structured approach or instructional activity sequence, below and available to download:

TBL Sequence

TBL adopts a flipped classroom approach to learning and is particularly useful where application of content is at least as important as covering that content. Following their pre-class preparation, students arrive at class for the Readiness Assurance Process (RAP). This consists of an individual short test based on the core content. Before receiving their marks, they take the same test as a team. Then the scores are revealed. Based on statistics from Larry Michaelsen – TBL Pioneer – out of 6,738 students in 1,210 teams since 1986, 1,209 teams scored higher than their own best member (99.9+% of teams) and only one individual outscored his team (<0.1% of teams). It is possible to complete the RAP in a fully online manner – if this is something you are interested in, please contact ILT.

The RAP is followed by an opportunity for teams to challenge the preparation content, the questions in the test or the answers. Successful challenges receive academic credit, so there is value to the students in challenging. The challenge process is vital because it demonstrates increased and deep level interaction with the material. Tutors can also use this time to clarify any outstanding issues either from the content or from the tests themselves.

Finally, the majority of class time is spent on applying student’s acquired knowledge using the 4Ss:

  1. Significant problem – problem involves issues that are significant to students
  2. Same problem – individuals/groups are working on the same problem, case or question
  3. Specific choice – individuals/groups are required to use course concepts to make a specific choice
  4. Simultaneous report – individuals/groups report their choices simultaneously.

TBL at Northampton

During the 2014-15 academic year, TBL was piloted at Northampton across three modules – Functional Human Sciences (a first year Occupational Therapy module), Understanding Consumers (a first year Marketing module) and Introduction to Public Law (also a first year module). Research is being conducted by ILT in conjunction with staff and students on their experiences of using TBL and in September 2015, Dr Ming Nie, Research Assistant with ILT presented at the Association of Learning Technology annual Conference on Team-Based Learning in Occupational Therapy: A Student-Centred Approach.

In the 15-16 academic year, the number of modules using this approach has increased. We have hosted a TBL master-class session at Northampton in November 2014 and members of staff who trialled this approach are happy to talk to other staff interested in finding out more.

Please note: we have permission to share the downloadable resources that are available on the right.