Cooperative/Team Based Learning

Team-Based or Cooperative Learning has students work intensively in groups to actively engage with the course material, with guidance from the instructor. Instead of the “sage-on-the-stage,” TBL classrooms often rely on the professor as “guide-on-the-side.”

Studies of team-based learning, primarily in STEM disciplines, have shown improved student learning. The combination of increased mutual accountability, meta-cognitive reflection, and active learning helps students take ownership of their own experience. As the ability to work across diverse teams becomes more central to all our lives, offering students the opportunity to learn in cooperative learning groups is more important than ever. See these strategies for improving cross-cultural group work.

How does it work?

Students are organized intentionally at the start of the semester into groups of 4-7. You should pay attention to previous preparation, demographics, study habits, and course goals when forming the groups. Many faculty using TBL send students a survey (Google Forms are handy for this) before the start of the semester to collect relevant information and create groups.

In class, TBL proceeds in a three-step cycle for each module (which may last 3-5 class sessions): student preparation, in-class readiness assurance testing, and some application-focused exercise. See the Vanderbilt University Team-Based Learning Guide, UMass Ideas for Creating Meaningful (Team-Based) Assignments, or the Team-Based Learning Collaborative for more detailed information on modules, assurance testing, grading schemes, research studies on TBL, and so on.