Team Based Learning (TBL)

Team-Based Learning (TBL) is defined as “an active learning and small group instructional strategy that provides students with opportunities to apply conceptual knowledge through a sequence of activities that includes individual work, team work, and immediate feedback”. (Parmelee D, Michaelsen LK, Cook S, Hudes PD, 2012)


TBL Learning Cycle

Team-Based Learning is a student-centered learning approach that is taught in a three-step cycle:  preparation, in-class readiness assurance testing, and application-focused exercise. After class, an optional team member evaluation can be conducted.

The TBL learning cycle can be devided into six phases. For phases 2-4 you want to set aside 60-90 min. An application exercise would again be 60-90 min, but you could also extend the learning over multiple sessions by working through several application exercises if appropriate.

4 principles

1. Groups need to be carefully formed and managed. These teams are fixed for the whole course.

2. Students are accountable for their pre-learning and for working in teams.

3. Team assignments must promote both learning and team development.

4. Students must receive frequent and timely feedback.

(Source: Michaelsen and Richards, 2005)


Step-by-step Planning Guide

Step 1

Define clear and specific learning goals

What do you want your students to be able to DO at the end of the session? Be specific with how well you want them to master this. Make sure to take into consideration student's prior knowledge so that learning goals are realistic.

Step 2

Identify or create application exercise(es)

Find or create a problem or scenario that is authentic and resonates with students. It’s the kind of situation that students will encounter in their profession and can relate to easily. And the solution needs to be one that they can only get to through team deliberations.

Step 3

Design question for iRAT/tRat

Develop meaningful question sets for the readiness assurance tests. The questions should be multiple-choice (MCQ) and the difficulty should be equivalent to your end of course exam. The appropriate number of questions depends on the complexity of the content.

Step 4

Preparation materials

Next you need to identify which materials students should prepare before coming to class. You should select materials that are aligned with the RAT questions and thus are effective and sufficient to prepare students for the application exercises.

Step 5

Set-up team member evaluation

You can set-up a process that encourages students to highlight positive behaviors of their peer and how they contributed to the team´s success and to personal learning and at the same time develop their skills for constructive feedback.

Step 6

Seek feedback and make improvements

TBL is a different teaching approach to the case method or lecturing. Most likely, your design will not be perfect the first time around. Make sure to capture student feedback to improve your materials for the next time.