Why TBL?

Download the PDF version of this blog post: Why TBL?

I was recently asked by one of the faculty using our Team-Based Learning software InteDashboard for some information on how she could convince her administration to invest more in TBL. The same topic came up on a TBL listserv a few days ago so I thought I would share this publicly.

Team-Based Learning is a highly effective teaching method that has been used for nearly four decades and is used by top universities such as Columbia, Duke, and Yale and is supported by significant evidence, aligned with modern workforce skill requirements and can be highly resource efficient.

A. Employability – aligned with 21st century workplace skills

The World Economic Forum’s “Future of Jobs Report” identified the top 10 skills required in 2020, and TBL can develop at least six of them: complex problem solving, critical thinking, people management, coordinating with others, judgement and decision making, and negotiation. TBL is often contrasted with the traditional one-way lecture format that probably does not effectively enhance any of the top 10 future skills. 


B. Evidence – supported by decades of research

There is well established evidence to support Team-Based Learning. A search for “Team-Based Learning” on the Institute of Education Science’s Education Resource Information Center (ERIC) will lead you to over 500 publications, with more than half peer-reviewed. In a 2015 literature review of 40 research papers published in the Journal of Excellence in College Teaching, the authors (Haidet, Kubitz, & McCormack) noted:

“Their analysis demonstrated early evidence of positive educational outcomes in terms of knowledge acquisition, participation and engagement, and team performance”

C. Resource efficiency: 

Team-Based Learning has the potential to be highly resource efficient. For example, Duke-NUS Medical School has been implementing TBL since 2006 and its students have managed to achieve similar results in less than half the time on United States medical license exams than if they were taught using non-TBL pedagogy. Duke-NUS has been profiled as a case study (https://www.staging.aamc.org/download/314218/data/duke-nuscasestudydo.pdf) by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) and now nearly half of medical schools in the United States use TBL.  As described in the Medical Science Educator journal article (http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF03341758):

“The first evidence of impact of the TeamLEAD model upon student performance was assessed and quantified through a 2010 and 2011 comparative evaluation of U.S. and Duke-NUS medical students on the results of their National Board of Medical Examiners Comprehensive Basic Science Examination (CBSE) and United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). In less curricular time (i.e., end of their first year), Duke-NUS students achieved comparable standards of basic science knowledge achieved by U.S. medical students. Duke-NUS students at the end of their second (clinical) year performed significantly higher than the U.S. students.”

Resources: Evidence to Support TBL

Abstract Team-based learning, or TBL, is an application-oriented teaching method that combines small- and large-group learning by incorporating multiple small groups into a large group setting. It has been increasingly used in post-secondary and professional education over the past two decades. Given this increasing usage, many faculty wonder about the effects TBL has on learning outcomes. The authors performed a review and synthesis on the educational literature with respect to TBL to examine the quality of their descriptions of core TBL elements, and then constructed narrative summaries of these selected articles. Their analysis demonstrated early evidence of positive educational outcomes in terms of knowledge acquisition, participation and engagement, and team performance. The authors conclude that the TBL literature is at an important maturation point, where more rigorous testing and study of additional questions relating to the method are needed, as well as more accurate reporting of TBL implementation.






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