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Team-Based Learning Resources: What is TBL?

Designed for University at Albany instructors using team-based learning, this guide will lead you to key sources of information.

What is TBL?

Team-based learning has its origins in the teaching of Larry Michaelsen at the University of Oklahoma in the late 1970s, when increasing enrollment caused one of his courses to triple in size.  He wanted to continue to use the group activities and assignments that he found helped students to apply, rather than just learn, concepts.[i] He discovered that using a large part of class time for group activities worked:

In fact, it was working so well that it accomplished three things that Michaelsen had not even anticipated. First, the students themselves perceived the large class setting as being far more beneficial than harmful. Second, the approach created several conditions that would enhance learning in any setting. In spite of the size of the class, for example, the approach was prompting most students to take responsibility for their own and their peers’ learning. Third, Michaelsen was having fun. Because the students were getting their initial understanding of the content through their own efforts, he could concentrate on the aspect of teaching he enjoyed most: designing assignments and activities that would enable students to discover why the subject matter that was so near and dear to him was important to them as well.[i]

TBL is a radical departure from the notion of student as empty vessel, who only needs to hear the wisdom of a professor during a lecture to learn the course content.  Instructors play a very different role in TBL. Team-based learning has four critical components:

·         Team formation and management

·         Accountability

·         Feedback

·         Assignment design

The resources suggested in this guide will lead to more detailed information about TBL.

[i] Michaelsen, Knight, and Fink, Team-Based Learning, pp. vii-viii.
[i] Larry Michaelsen, Arletta Bauman Knight, and L. Dee Fink, Team-Based Learning: A Transformative Use of Small Groups in College Teaching (Sterling, VA: Stylus, 2004), p. vii.