Team-based learning (TBL) is an active learning and collaborative teaching strategy that enables learners to follow a structured process to enhance student engagement and the quality learning. TBL uses a specific sequence of individual and group activities and immediate feedback to engage and motivate in which students increasingly hold each other accountable for their preparation and contribution to discussion.
TBL dramatically shifts the focus of classroom time from conveying course concepts by the instructor to the application of course concepts by student teams.
In the TBL process, students acquire their initial exposure to the content through readings and are held accountable for their preparation using a Readiness Assurance Process (RAP). Following the RAP, the bulk of class time is used to practice applying content in a series of team application exercises. The components of TBL are very adaptable to many situations, disciplines and classroom types.
Teams quickly switch from voting/compromise to real problem solving as they get to know and trust each other. Birmingham and Michaelsen (1999) found that two thirds of teams (n =192 teams) started by using voting and compromise to avoid decision-making conflict early in team development and that NO teams used voting or compromise after only 5 test together. Focus changed from "who is right" to "what is right"
By reviewing student performance part way through the semester you can send a powerful message about the effectiveness of team work.
The differential attention on more difficult concepts begins in the Team Readiness Assurance Test. During the tRAT, the teams will often vote on questions, accepting consensus when it exists and quickly moving on. On more difficult questions, where there is no simple consensus, they will discuss for a longer period of time. The length of the discussion is affected by the overall difficulty of the question and the underlying concepts. Each time the team selects an answer and does not find the correct answer, they return to the question for further discussion.
Following the tRAT, the teams are encouraged to appeal incorrect answers or raise "burning questions". This pushes the teams into further discussions and back into the preparation material, exactly where they are having the most difficulty. Once the Appeals Process is complete, the instructor can provide a targeted mini-lecture on the most troublesome concepts.
TBL is now routinely used in large classes (up to 400, but more typically 120-150 Students with a single facilitator) and is even possible in difficult classroom spaces (i.e. tiered lecture theaters). Bottom line is - give students something compelling enough to work on and they will ignore the limitations of the room