Team-Based Learning

What is Team-Based Learning?

Team-Based Learning (TBL) is an increasingly popular form of flipped-classroom small-group learning that can be implemented effectively in small or large classes. TBL provides students with a more intimate, small class feel even in large theater-style classrooms with fixed seats.

TBL teachers report high levels of student attendance, preparation, participation and critical thinking. TBL students report enjoying class and being more motivated and actively engaged.

Collaboration in teams provides students with valuable experience that is reflective of problem solving in real-life workplace environments. Just like on the job, participants are expected to be responsible and prepared as individuals and then bring their best efforts into group activities.

Four Components of Team-Based Learning

Permanent teams

  • Semester-long groups are formed strategically to accommodate and take advantage of diversity in student characteristics.
  • Long-term team building skills learned through this process are vital for the workplace.

Readiness assurance

  • Prior to each learning module, students are expected to prepare by reading material.
  • Individuals must pass a preparedness assessment before participating.
  • Teams complete a preparedness assessment together and receive immediate feedback.
  • Teams can appeal scores by challenging the clarity of specific questions or supporting their response by citing specific points in the reading material.

Application activities

  • Students are expected to make decisions on significant problems, usually based on case studies or realistic data.
  • Groups spend the majority of class time solving the same significant problem, making a specific choice, and reporting decisions or conclusions simultaneously (the four s approach).
  • Activities emphasize the thinking process and discussion of ideas in decision-making as well as reporting and supporting results.
  • Instructors get clear and immediate indication of student misconceptions and overall class understanding. Students receive immediate feedback essential for learning.

Anonymous peer evaluation

  • Formative peer evaluation can be performed at one-third to half-way through semester to help individual students improve as team members.
  • Summative peer evaluation occurs at the end of the course to give students credit for team participation and contributions.

Team-Based Learning at ISU

Because of enhanced student engagement and learning gains demonstrated by Team-Based Learning research, the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) has placed TBL as a priority initiative. Each semester, CELT offers a team-based learning workshop to help teachers implement this flipped classroom method. CELT also supports an ongoing faculty learning community. After learning the completing the TBL workshop, ISU faculty and TAs are invited to join the Team-Based Learning Community for additional support from excited, motivated TBL implementers.

Iowa State has an active and vibrant group of faculty and graduate students involved in TBL. See what student are saying about their experiences with TBL and how faculty are implementing it in their courses.

College of Engineering News Report on Course Using TBL

Students benefitted from applied learning working in teams in the graduate-level course, IE 576, Human Factors in Product Design. Read the full article.

Team-Based Learning in Chemical Engineering

Monica Lamm, Associate Professor in Chemical and Biological Engineering is one of several faculty members who have implemented the research-based flipped classroom method of Team-Based Learning (TBL) in courses at Iowa State University. Dr. Lamm was first introduced to TBL by a graduate student mentee who had learned about it through her participation in the Preparing Future Faculty program. Impressed by the level of engagement in the course that the grad student was teaching, Dr. Lamm joined a CELT-sponsored Team-Based Learning Circle and implemented this method in her own chemical engineering courses.

In the video below, Dr. Lamm reflects on her experience using TBL in a class of about 60 students. Also, Chemical Engineering sophomores Rachel Morris and Tanner Jaeger share the student perspective.

Topics covered in this video include:

  • Starting the Semester
  • Learning Activities
  • Large Enrollment Course / Small Class Feel
  • Learning as a Team
  • Formative Assessment
  • Importance of Teamwork Skills Experience
  • Team Based Learning Community

For more information on how Dr. Lamm formats her TBL course, including a demonstration of teams solving problems together, we’ve prepared this video of clips from Dr. Lamm’s Fall 2012 Chemical Engineering 210 classroom.

Topics covered in this video include:

  • Forming the Teams
  • Ensuring Students Are Ready for Each Class
  • Encouraging Participation
  • Working in Teams
  • Monitoring Student Learning

Student Commentary on Team-Based Learning in Clinical Pathology

Carolyn Harness, Scott Aman and Heather Bjornebo, three senior veterinary students from the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine Class of 2007, share their experiences with the Clinical Pathology course, VPth 425.

More information about TBL is available at the national Team-Based Learning Collaborative.