The collaborative nature of team-based learning might seem foreign to many instructors who are firmly rooted in the old study/lecture/test classroom model.
As discussed earlier, these foreign aspects emerge from several factors, perhaps the most significant being the collaborative nature of the team-based learning environment.
However, TBL is more than just throwing students together in groups to let them work out questions with each other.
For team-based learning to be effective, it must follow a series of protocols to create the optimal circumstances for collaborative, consensus-based work and individual understanding.
Naturally, the most crucial step in the process is creating the team itself. Trainee groups must be strategically formed and permanent throughout the duration of the training program. Diversity is encouraged, and teams should represent a broad cross section of the participants, including years of service, levels of seniority, and responsibilities.
This allows for varied perspectives on questions and input that reflects those from departments across an organization. Creating diverse teams can be accomplished by asking participants to complete a survey at the beginning of the training – potentially using audience response technology – with the results used to make teams as balanced and diverse as possible.
As discussed in Part 1, a significant portion of the team-based learning structure is based around in-class application activities that allow trainees to demonstrate their understanding of the subject matter. These activities encourage accountability not just to the instructor, but to team members, and have five requirements:
- Problems must be significant enough to demonstrate a concept’s usefulness within the scope of the training.
- Trainees must use concepts from preparatory study to make a specific choice as a group. Through this step, students must have a knowledge of the facts, but also learn to think through a problem to come to an answer.
- All teams must work on the same problem.
- Groups should report their answers simultaneously so differences in results can be explored immediately by the entire class. To highlight a group’s decision-making process, a question posed by the instructor might be, “What steps did you use to come to this conclusion?”
At a course’s midpoint and end, team members are asked to provide anonymous evaluations on their team members. Though noted as an optional step in Part 1, this last step allows for an assessment of team members’ participation, contribution and attitude. Facilitators can use the information gathered to respond to team members on their performance.