Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning
The posting below looks at teacher responses to team based learning. It is from Chapter 15, Team-Based Learning: A Strategy for Transforming the Quality of Teaching and Learning, by Arletta Bauman Knight in the book: Team-Based Learning: A Transformative Use of Small Groups in College Teaching, edited by Larry K. Michaelsen, Arletta Bauman Knight, and L. Dee Fink. The book was originally published in hard cover by Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc., Westport, Conn. Copyright ? 2002 by Larry K. Michaelsen, Arletta Bauman Knight, and L. Dee Fink. Paperback edition by arrangement with Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc. All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, by any process or technique, without the express written consent of the publisher. Stylus Publishing, LLC 22883 Quicksilver Drive, Sterling, VA 20166. http://www.styluspub.com/
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Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning
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Benefits of Learning Teams
Students Working Together to Learn
Our sample of teachers in Part II reports that with team-based learning, in contrast to the typical lecture format, students are no longer passive recipients in the classroom. Passivity is reduced because the nature of the assignments in team-based learning provides an environment in which students become actively engaged in the learning process. As was mentioned earlier, Streuling comments that his students often become so engrossed with the project that it is hard to get them to move on to something else. It is the process of working together to solve a common problem that builds a sense of connection between the students. There is a genuine sense of belonging to the group that prompts students to attend class regularly and, even more important, to come to class prepared. Dinan writes that over the course of the semester, he could observe the strengthening of support between students within the groups. Herrid sums it up with his comment that "once groups have bonded, the students realize their absence hurts their new friends."
Improved Student Learning
Without exception, all of the teachers in the preceding chapters reported improved student learning after team-based learning was implemented. In fact, the general consensus among our sample is that working in teams truly promotes the development of critical thinking. Students move from merely hearing and reading about abstract concepts, to working with their teammates to apply those concepts to solve real-world kinds of problems. In addition, through the reinforcement of concepts, issues, ideas, and so on (provided by the Readiness Assurance Process), students also achieve a higher level of retention. Cragin writes that he is absolutely convinced that-compared to traditional methods-team-based learning empowers students to understand concepts more thoroughly and retain them for extended periods of time. In fact, his students have gone out of their way to phone or write, many times long after graduation, to say that they remembered what they had learned in his class and were using it successfully.
When learning teams are properly implemented rewards are abundant, for both the teacher and the students. Streuling points out that one of the greatest benefits of team-based learning is that the teacher's stress level is lower because the responsibility of learning has "shifted from the professor to the students." In other words, with team-based learning, students are more actively engaged in the learning process. As a result, the teacher can relax and enjoy teaching again.
One significant benefit of team-based learning is detailed in Herreid's observation that students cannot remain hidden for the duration of the semester (as they can in many lecture classes) because no one can be anonymous in a small group. That is, it is quite obvious to their fellow team members when students do not keep up with their work and, as a result, are unable to contribute to RATs [Readiness Assessment Tests] or assignments. This kind of exposure creates a genuine sense of accountability, and students quickly learn to come to class prepared. Also, over time, students' confidence in their teams group to the point that they are willing and able to tackle difficult assignments with little or no external help. Herreid remarks that "it is no wonder the grades are better."
In addition, gone forever is the relentless pursuit to cover the content. The teachers in our sample report that team-based learning allows them to cover more course material than in a typical lecture class. Perhaps Lucas says it best when she comments that, after almost ten years of teaching, she has stopped worrying about having to cover "every concept." She believes that her students have developed the critical thinking skills to seek out and acquire information on their own.
Another reason that the teacher who uses team-based learning can relax and enjoy teaching is that he or she no longer has to worry about being the focus of attention in the class. That is, the teacher can relinquish the role of "entertainer" because he or she no longer has to work at making the class interesting. When group assignments are properly designed, students are drawn into the activity and no longer need to be entertained. Teachers also commented that being freed from lecture allowed them to become more closely involved with their students during the learning process. Several professors reported that with team-based learning they had the opportunity to get to know their students as individuals, something that was never possible when they were lecturing.
As teachers learn to know their students better, students are also bonding as a group. In fact, many times students develop relationships that last over time. For example, seniors have reported friendships with classmates that began when they were freshmen working on the same team. In addition, many times after having been exposed to the team-based learning experience, students form their own ad hoc groups in subsequent semesters.