In 2016, CELT visited with professor of mathematics Elgin Johnston and senior lecturer of mathematics Heather Bolles as they were using the Team-Based Learning (TBL) teaching approach in their MATH 166: Calculus II course. The course is held in an active learning classroom (213 MacKay Hall). Math faculty examine numbers to improve student learning (Inside Iowa State).
Below is an excerpt from a March 23, 2017 Inside Iowa State article by Paula Van Brocklin that describes Johnston’s and Bolle’s successes. The full Inside Iowa State web article is available at Math faculty examine numbers to improve student learning,
On to calculus
Over the past few years, professor of mathematics Elgin Johnston and senior lecturer of mathematics Heather Bolles have transformed their calculus sections for greater student success using team-based learning (TBL).
What is TBL?
TBL is a form of active and small-group learning that can be implemented in a large classroom. It requires students to do assignments before class in order to inspire more engaging classroom discussions. During class, students work on significant team projects, applying calculus concepts. With support from a Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant, Johnston and Bolles, with input from faculty in science and engineering, have spent years developing and refining their TBL materials.
Johnston and Bolles assign their students readings, videos and a quiz prior to class. When class convenes, students work in their assigned groups of five to seven individuals, and take the quiz again.
“They almost always do better after the team quiz,” Johnston said.
Greater student success
Bolles said one of the positive outcomes of TBL is that more students physically come to class.
“We’ve had significantly higher attendance rates,” Bolles said. “We had rates as low as 60 percent before the TBL implementation, and now we’re at 85 to 90 percent.”
Johnston attributes the increased participation to students feeling accountable to their teams.
“Some teams get very close by the end of the semester,” he said.
Like McNicholl, Johnston and Bolles measure students’ calculus knowledge at the beginning and end of the semester. What they’ve found is that the students in TBL sections score higher than students in non-TBL classes. In addition, TBL students earn higher scores, on average, on the departmental midterm and final exams.
“TBL lets students be actively engaged in the classroom, and their learning is better for it,” Johnston said.
Team-Based Learning at Iowa State
Iowa State has an active and vibrant group of faculty and graduate students involved in team-based learning. 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 completing the TBL workshop, participants are invited to join the Team-Based Learning Community for additional support from others who are also using TBL in their courses.
To learn how you can get involved with TBL, visit CELT’s Team-Based Learning website.