Last week I co-presented a “lunch and learn” seminar at our on-campus Center for Teaching and Learning on the topic of team-based learning. A small group of us had a good conversation about how this teaching method can be used to facilitate active learning in our courses. While I’m fairly new to this teaching method, I have become such an evangelist for it by taking every opportunity I can to speak about how I’ve applied it in my courses.
What I like most about this teaching method is how it energizes the classroom environment and shifts the dynamic away from students passively receiving knowledge to the application of such knowledge. There is a ton of information on the web about team-based learning (tbl) so I won’t describe it in too much detail here, except to say that this approach emphasizes student prep work at home, with class time shifting to first testing students’ comprehension of key concepts through “readiness assessment tests” followed by the bulk of class time focusing on application of concepts and ideas through, what is essentially, team-based problem solving.
This method works really well by requiring students to complete the assigned prep work at home and then reinforcing that acquired knowledge in the classroom through application. So, classroom time moves away from the instructor-led lecture to more of a “bottom-up” approach with students participating in discussion with me and their classmates about the decisions they made in solving the assigned problems.
For my part, I also really like the more spontaneous, “mini” lectures that arise from this class structure. Rather than preparing lengthy lecture notes, I use the learning objectives as a guide for what students should get out of the assigned material, and the assessment test and the application activities help inform me of the gaps in student learning. I can then address these gaps immediately and more “organicly” — i.e. in a more “off-the-cuff” explanation/lecture and discussion.
Team-based learning is really an innovative way for students to learn and I’m looking forward to deepening my knowledge of this method both through continued application of it, as well as through future research studies in which I would like to examine more carefully the variables that may support, or hinder, its success application.