Education circles constantly call for active engagement in classrooms. Administrators place an emphasis on research based strategies. Everyone seems to be pushing students towards critical thinking – or at least desire to, even if they aren’t sure how to go about it. And those with funding and power are asking for accountability – for both students and teachers.
Team-Based Learning (TBL) is a research based active engagement instructional strategy that uses a series of assessments (accountability) to assure the readiness of students to engage in learning experiences that require the critical application of course content.
The strategy follows a prescribed structure:
Preparation or pre-learning: students complete reading, problems, research, etc. prior to starting the module.
Individual Readiness Assurance Test (IRAT): the IRAT is designed to assess each individual student’s readiness for the application exercise and is an individual grade. Think of it as an individual quiz – just like those you are already using in your classroom.
Team Readiness Assurance Test (TRAT): a TRAT is taken directly after the IRAT, which clarifies misunderstandings and creates opportunities for further learning. The score on the TRAT is shared by all team members. The TRAT utilizes a scratch card aligned with the quiz. When the team has agreed upon an answer they scratch of the corresponding response on the card. If they are correct, the team will see a star and receive all of the points for that question. If they are incorrect, they revisit the question, discuss the remaining options, and scratch until they have the correct answer.
Appeals: teams have the opportunity to appeal, or challenge, questions they feel were written poorly or had a mistake in the answer coding. This is done with a written appeal presenting the teams argument and the reason they are challenging the question or a specific response.
Instructor Feedback or Re-teaching: Not intended for further instruction, but addressing issues in content that many groups or students didn’t understand based on the RATs and is usually delivered in the form of a mini-lecture.
Application-Focused Exercise: after proving their readiness, students are then able to experience an application of the knowledge they have gained. The application is designed to apply the knowledge learned through a team challenge that requires students to come to a best solution given the information provided.
For a peak into the classroom, and a detailed description of how to get started with TBL, check out:
It can also work within an online course!