What is Team Based Learning?

Team-Based Learning

Team-based learning is a form of learning that is often discussed, but many misunderstand. It’s a form of 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 tenants of it and how it differentiates from other types of learning.

Here are the 3 tenants of team-based learning (TBL)

1.    Each student group is permanent (for the 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

Teams vs. Groups, what’s the difference?


Group activities aren’t new for most educators, but group-based learning is different than team-based learning. Often with groups, students choose who they wish to work with, and have the freedom to switch group members between assignments, whereas, TBL may not allow students to choose their own team members and teams do not change from assignment to assignment. Team members are carefully chosen based upon their experiences and skill-set to ensure there is variety among each student. By ensuring team members don’t change throughout the semester, students develop close bonds and learn from their teammates, while assisting one another to ensure the team can out-perform on the tasks assigned to them.

The Science Behind Team-Based Learning


Patricia Hrynchak and Helen Batty argue that team-based learning incorporates the central tenants of constructivist learning in which “focus is on the mental representation of information by the learner:” [2]

1.    The Teacher is a guide to facilitate learning

2.    Learners should encounter differences between their previous understanding and new experiences which in-turn, provides a basis to develop new understandings of concepts

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

4.    Learning requires thoughtful reflection

For TBL, the educator sets the objectives along with the assignment itself, but instead will allow the groups to navigate the assignment to put-forth a solution on their own. This type of learning will facilitate debate among team-members in which each individual challenges the others’ viewpoint based upon their own understanding. Collectively, one solution will emerge, and each team members’ understanding of the concept will inherently change as well.

Is Team-Based Learning Effective?


In 1998, Richard Hake of Indiana University gathered data on 2084 students in 14 introductory physics courses in which students were taught with traditional, passive types of learning (Instructor lecturing to students;) and analyzed their pre & post test score results. He then compared those results to students who received interactive or “hands-on” type of learning such as TBL. Hake found that students who received interactive learning scored two deviations higher than those students who received traditional forms of learning. [3]

Peer Feedback Drives the Success Behind Team-Based Learning


It has been shown that students learn best when feedback occurs quickly and frequently throughout the duration of an assignment. For some professors teaching larger classes, it may be difficult to institute TBL, that’s why many professors take the central tenant – PeerFeedback – and apply that to their courses. Breaking up larger assignments such as term papers into smaller assignments which allow students to receive feedback early in the process, has proven successful for many professors including Professor Carpenter of Michigan State University who uses Kritik’s peer feedback platform for his class.

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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