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Getting Started with TBL
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Getting Started with TBL

Step 1 - Watch the Video

Take a look at this excellent 12 minute video that succinctly captures "What is TBL?" and "Why it is so Powerful"?


Step 2 - Study the Handout

Review this Introduction to Team-Based Learning by Jim Sibley 


Step 3 - Read the Book

Team-Based Learning:  A Transformative Use of Small Groups in College Teaching


Step 4 - Explore this Website
Forming Teams

Video: Larry Michaelsen on Team Formation

Three principles should guide team formation:

  1. never use student-selected teams
  2. create diverse teams
  3. make the selection process transparent.

As soon as newly assigned teams come together, members share names and explore what each may bring to the course experience. When students learn that their assignment to a team is based upon a principle of ‘resource wealth distribution,’ they value their team members from two perspectives: “we are all pretty equal and we each may have some particular strength to bring to the discussions.”

Team formation can sometimes be a contentious issue for students and instructors. Students will often suggest using student-selected teams, but Brickell et al (1994), suggest that student-selected teams are often just “social entities” and goes on to show that student-selected teams under-perform when compared to instructor-selected teams.

More detailed information on Forming Teams can be found on the Member's site.

Click here for more information on Forming Teams

Orienting Students

It it important that you regularly and openly describe your rationales for using TBL with your students. Some student resistance is common with students claiming “we pay you to teach” or “testing before you taught us anything makes no sense”. These feelings are out there, so you should make sure you can eloquently convey your rationales for using TBL.

More detailed information on Orienting Students can be found on the Member's site.

Click here for more information on Orienting your Students to TBL

Setting Grade Weights

Many TBL practioners use a grade weight setting exercise in a class early in the semester. Letting students have a say in grade weight setting can help with student “buy-in” to TBL.

More detailed information on Setting Grade Weights can be found on the Member's site.

Click here for more information on Setting Grade Weights

Pre-Class Preparation

Instructor must select readings and construct Readiness Assurance tests that help student acquire the necessary foundational knowledge to begin problem-solving and doing the application activities.

Backwards Design (Wiggins and McTighe) is often used to design TBL courses. You first identify the activities that the students will do to “learn how to use” the course content. Next, you identify the necessary background knowledge the student must have to begin problem solving. Then, you select readings and construct question to help student acquire this background knowledge.

We often create reading guides to help the students get the most of the readings. Students often have trouble identifying the important concepts from the readings. The guides can be a series of questions the students answer while reading or the guide can draw attention to the important sections of the readings.

More detailed information on Pre-Class Preparation can be found on the Member's site.

For more examples of guides for readings and studying please access this link

Readiness Assurance Process

At the first class meeting of each module an event known as the Readiness Assurance Process is completed. First, students complete an individual multiple-choice test (typically 20 questions for a 2 week module) on the readings. Following the individual test, the same test is retaken by the teams. Most practitioners of TBL use an IF-AT (Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique) card for the team test, which is a scratch-and-win-type testing card. The team discusses a question, decides in an answer, and scratch off the coating over their choice to see if it is correct. If the answer is not correct, they return to question and discussion. They do not leave each question until they know the correct answer. Following the team test, the teams are invited to appeal in writing answers they got incorrect, due to ambiguity in question or ambiguity in readings. At the end of Readiness Assurance Process, the instructor can provide small clarifications on troublesome topics (using item analysis of individual test to guide this mini-lecture).

More detailed information on the Readiness Assurance Process can be found on the Member's site.

Click here for more information on the Readiness Assurance Process.

Application Exercises

The session typically begins with the distribution of the worksheets and problems. It is important to set the students properly to task by reminding them of the applicable knowledge they bring to the problem and the length of time they will be given to discuss it within their team before reporting their decisions. If there are any written artifacts that need to be generated then students should be reminded of this.

More detailed information on using Application Exercises can be found on the Member's site.

For more information on using Application Exercises, click here.

Facilitation Skills

Click here for more information on Facilitation Skills.

Peer Evaluation

Peer evaluation is at the heart of keeping students accountable to their teammates for their preparation and contribution to team activities.  This is a process that allows students to give constructive feedback - and this is a capability that will be valuable for their careers as they develop into professionals.

If the class is relatively small, peer evaluation can be carried out manually by having each student complete independently an appraisal form to evaluate the contribution of other team members relative to themselves. The instructor then compiles the information, and sends each student the anonymous comments and ratings from their team members. 

For larger classes, it is faster and much easier to use software such as iPeer, CATME, or SparkPlus that have been developed specifically for this purpose. The software is set up to allow students to evaluate firstly themselves, then their team members according to a range of criteria. These criteria can be derived from the literature, or from the educator’s own research. When students have completed their evaluations, they can view the anonymized results that can include ratings on the criteria, and text comments.

LINKS for the above software:


It is important to carefully explain the evaluation process, and to give students one or two rounds of formative evaluation, before having a final evaluation when statistics generated by the software can be used to moderate individual students’ marks for a team exercise.

TBLC consultants have experience in using different software systems, and can provide advice based on their experiences.

More detailed information on Peer Evaluation can be found on the Member's site.

For information on Peer Evaluation, click here.

Step 5 - Join the Community

Click here to join TBLC.


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