Team-Based Learning

Team-Based Learning

Team-Based Learning (TBL) provides a framework for a flipped course experience. Students prepare before class and then spend the majority of class time solving problems together, via a Readiness Assurance Process of readings, tests, mini-lectures, and then application exercises.

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

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.

Engaging students in STEM by changing the classroom experience

Elgin Johnston and Heather Bolles literally turned the tables on students in their calculus courses three years ago, and the two instructors have no intention of ever turning back to just lecturing. Since ditching the traditional format for a team-based learning environment, class attendance and participation have improved and so have test scores. Johnston, a professor of mathematics at Iowa State University; and Bolles, a senior lecturer of mathematics, made the change as part of a campus-wide initiative to retain students in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) majors. Learn more from Iowa State’s News Service web article and view the Team-based learning improving calculus performance at ISU​ YouTube video (or view below).

College of Engineering News Report on Course Using TBL

Students benefited from applied learning working in teams in the graduate-level course, IE 576, Human Factors in Product Design. Read the Revived IMSE product design course emphasizes teamwork web 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.

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.

ISU Library TBL e-Books

University Library’s Team-Based Learning e-Books available:

  • Michaelsen, L. K., & Sweet, M. (2012). Team-based Learning in the Social Sciences and Humanities : Group Work That Works to Generate Critical Thinking and Engagement (Vol. 1st ed). Sterling, Va: Stylus Publishing. Retrieved from
  • Sibley, J., Ostafichuk, P., Roberson, B., Franchini, B., Kubitzv, K., & Michaelsen, L. K. (2014). Getting Started With Team-Based Learning (Vol. First edition). Sterling, Virginia: Stylus Publishing. Retrieved from

Upcoming Programs

Team-Based Learning Programs

Team-Based Learning Programs To learn more about Team-Based Learning, visit CELT’s Team-Based Learning (TBL) webpage. Online Team-Based Learning (TBL) Workshop Series Nov. 30, Dec.