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Learn more about Team-Based Learning (TBL) and explore guidance on using TBL in your teaching.

What is Team-based learning?

Team-Based Learning (TBL) is a scalable pedagogical approach in which students participate in quizzes, both individual and group, as well as group collaborative activities. It is designed to encourage team working in which a learner is held accountable to their group. In this approach teaching staff can easily identify areas that students are having difficulty with and adapt accordingly.

The structure of a TBL session

Team-based learning provides an active, structured form of small group learning, that can be applied to large classes.  

Before your teaching session

Students must interact with pre-session materials to provide the content that your TBL session will be drawing on. This could come in a range of forms including lecture content, readings, videos or podcasts.

During your teaching session

Students will complete a series of activities during the teaching session, both individual and within their teams.

Step 1: Students complete an individual readiness assurance test (iRAT), this is a multiple choice quiz which consists of between 5 and 20 questions based on the pre-class materials.

Step 2: Students take a team readiness assurance test (tRAT). This consists of the same set of questions but completed within their team, allowing students to share and discuss their answers.

Step 3: Students have the opportunity to appeal any questions that they disagreed with. For example, students may believe that a question was poorly or incorrectly worded or they may feel that they are able to offer an alternative answer to a question that is also correct. This provides a great opportunity to develop students' assessment and feedback literacy.

Step 4: After the appeals comes time for feedback. During this section teaching staff can provide general feedback to the whole group and pick up on any areas that students found particularly challenging, it may be appropriate to recap particular sections if it is felt that this is needed.

Step 5: After the individual and team quizzes comes the application focussed exercise. During this section a collaborative activity, or series of activities, is presented to students for them to complete within their teams. These activities will usually be posed as problems or challenges which students must discuss within their teams in order to agree on a proposed solution. Answers can then be shared between different teams to prompt a class discussion.

Top tips

Make sure you do the following.

  1. Set out clear expectations – in the first session make clear to students what will be expected of them and what students can expect from you and your colleagues. Explain what TBL is, how each session will run and why you are using this approach, i.e., what the benefits are for students, for example the skills they will gain.
  2. Be consistent – TBL works best when sessions are kept consistent so that students are able to get to grips with the approach and know what to expect. The application activities that you run can be varied, but try to keep the structure of the sessions, and students’ teams, the same.
  3. Group formation – the formation of students’ teams is very important, groups should be varied, not self-selected and kept consistent. The Team-Based Learning Collaborative have some FAQs on group formation including asking yourself: ‘how should I form teams?’ and ‘how big should the teams be?’
  4. Learning technologies – make use of learning technologies such as Canvas Quizzes and Poll Everywhere for the individual and team quizzes as these allow you to automatically mark MCQs and help to keep track of student responses. Collaborative tools like Office 365 and Padlet can be used to facilitate and share the application activities.

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