What is Team Based Learning?

Team-Based Learning

Team-based learning (TBL) is a form of learning that is often discussed, but many misunderstand. TBL is a form of student learning that was developed to ensure each student oversees greater levels of autonomy and responsibility for their work and their own learning. [1] To understand team-based learning, we must first establish what are the key tenets of it and how it differentiates from the other types of learning.

Here are the TBL Tenets

1.  Each student group is permanent (for the entire duration of the semester)

2.  Each student has a responsibility to contribute & is assessed independently

3.  Students must work collectively on applying course concepts to assignments and other learning activities

Teams vs. Groups, what’s the difference?


Group activities aren’t new for most educators, but group-based learning is different from team-based learning. Oftentimes, students choose who they want to work with in a group.  They have the freedom to switch group members between assignments. Students have a commitment to help each other in the group work.

On the other hand, TBL may not allow students to choose their own team members and teams do not change from assignment to assignment. Team members are selected based on their experiences and skills to ensure the variation among each student. By ensuring team members don’t change throughout the semester, students develop close bonds and learn from their teammates resulting in team development.  Also, they assist one another so the team can out-perform on the tasks assigned to them.

‍Teamwork and the collaborative works of the students are necessary both in student teams and groups. It doesn't matter what specific choice you make as there is no wrong or correct answer as to the proper facilitation of the whole process.

The Science Behind Team-Based Learning


Helen Batty and Patricia Hrynchak argue the collaborative sense of the central tenets of constructivist learning in team-based learning which “focus is on the mental representation of information by the learner:” [2] The TBL process involves the following:

1.  The Teacher is a guide to facilitate learning and carry out their learning strategies.

2.  Learners should encounter differences between their previous understanding and new experiences. In turn, this serves as a basis to develop new understandings of concepts.

3.  A focus on relevant problems coupled with group interaction helps facilitate learning.

4.  Learning requires thoughtful reflection.

The educator, in the TBL system, sets the objectives along with the assignment itself. However, it will allow the groups to navigate the assignment for a solution to a significant problem on their own. This problem-based learning development will facilitate debate among team members in which each individual challenges others’ viewpoint based upon their understanding.

Collectively, one solution will emerge, and each team member’s understanding of the concept will inherently change as well. Student teams in this learning environment focus on subject matters such as health sciences.

Is Team-Based Learning Effective?


Indiana University’s Richard Hake gathered data on 2084 students in 14 introductory physics courses in 1998. Here, the students were taught with traditional, passive types of learning (Instructor lecturing to students). The students analyze the pre & post-test score results of the TBL application exercises. This is a readiness assurance process that assesses the learning capacity of the students.

Hake compared the results to students who received a hands-on or interactive learning such as TBL. He found out that students who received interactive learning scored two deviations higher than those students who received traditional forms of learning. [3] This also signifies the importance of a teaching strategy, critical thinking, and decision-making in TBL application activities.

Peer Feedback Drives the Success Behind Team-Based Learning


Study results indicate that students can best learn when feedback occurs quickly and frequently throughout the duration of an assignment. For some professors teaching larger classes, it may be difficult to institute a TBL classroom. This is why many professors take the central tenet – PeerFeedback – and apply that to their courses.

Breaking up larger assignments such as term papers into smaller assignments has proven successful for many professors including Professor Carpenter of Michigan State University who uses Kritik’s peer feedback platform for his class time. The transformative use of small groups allows students to receive immediate feedback early in the process. A mini-lecture can be a great way to get results for a team readiness assurance test.  

‍Student Peer Evaluation in Team-Based Learning

The peer evaluation of the students serves as a critical feedback source for student learning in TBL. In a TBL course, the evaluation reflects the assessment of each member’s contribution to team learning. It keeps the students accountable to their teammates.

The evaluation’s formative information helps an individual student improve team performance. It develops the team and interpersonal skills which are significant for student success in the future. Also, active learning is necessary for the assessment of the perception and performance of the students in this pedagogy.

Team based learning denotes the relevance of student engagement through learning activities. This is viable and doable for small group learning.


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  1. Guide to Team-Based Learning for Faculty https://ciel.viu.ca/teaching-learning-pedagogy/engaging-your-students/learning-through-groups-teams/what-team-based-learning-quick-guide-busy-faculty-members
  2. Hrynchak P and Batty H. (2012) The educational theory basis of team-based learning.
  3. Hake R (1998). Interactive-engagement versus traditional methods: A six-thousand-student survey of mechanics test data for introductory physics courses. American Journal of Physics
Chris Palazzo
Marketer & Educator. Blending the two here at Kritik

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