Team-Based Learning

Level of Difficulty: High

Bloom’s Taxonomy Levels: Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation

What is it?

A synthesis of flipped classroom, peer instruction and problem-based learning, Team-Based Learning is a strategy that involves moving the work of the lecture or reading portion of the class to pre-class activity and then using class time to apply the knowledge gained.

How do I use it?

Assign Preparatory Materials

Students engage with the content outside of class so they can be ready for in-class discussion and application. This can be done through readings, videos, or podcasts posted in CarmenCanvas.

Students take the Individual Readiness Assurance Test (IRAT) – (5 minutes)Tips for writing good IRAT/TRAT Questions.: Questions should be multiple choice with one clearly correct answer and three distrators. No more than four choices. Avoid True/False, All of the above, None of the above, K-type questions (answers that contain more than one choice)

This quick five minute quiz, taken individually, activates the student’s prior knowledge and helps boost retention of the pre-class materials. This multiple choice quiz should be no longer than 10 questions and should have one correct answer and no more than three distractors. each question is worth a maximum of 4 points. Students can choose to distribute those points across all four answers, split them evenly between two, or if they are confident that they have the correct answer, put all four on one answer.

Teams take the Team (or Group) Readiness Assurance Test (T/GRAT) – (10 minutes)

The TRAT (or GRAT) repeats the questions from the IRAT. Teams should be set up ahead of time, rather than randomized on the fly, and be comprised of 5 – 7 people. It’s also best to keep the same teams for the whole semester. Team members come together with their completed IRATs to take the quiz again and choose the answers as a team. If there is a dispute between team members on what the correct answer is, the team works together to find the best answer, and scratch off their chosen box on the IF-AT form for each question. If they find a star under their answer, they got it right. If they didn’t get it right, they deliberate again to make another choice. The maximum number of points for each question is 4, and the number of points gained goes down with each attempt.

Appeals Process – (Outside class)

If a team believes that a question is unclear or misleading, they can appeal to the instructor. Generally, this is done in writing viaemail, but can be done in person, depending on the instructor’s preference.

Mini-lecture Clarification – (10 minutes)

Application exercises should be structured around the Four S framework: 1) Significant: The problems should be significant to the information they just learned and practical to their professional life; 2) Same - All teams should have the same problem to solve, 3) Specific -There should be specific choices given and students should be asked to defend their choices; 4) Simultaneous - All teams should report out their solutions simultaneously.

Following the review of the TRAT results, the instructor can make decisions about what needs to be addressed for the sake of clarity or to be sure that there are no misconceptions or misunderstandings. Things that the class did well on don’t need to be covered in this mini-lecture, saving time for the application exercise.

Application Exercise – (20 minutes)

At the end of the mini-lecture, the instructor introduces an application exercise, based on the material that was covered in the pre-class content. 

The Application Exercise is the most important piece of a TBL exercise. The IRAT/TRAT and mini-lecture serve to clarify and remind the students about the pre-class content, using retrieval, peer instruction, and didactic techniques. But the application exercise is where the students begin to analyze, evaluate, and apply that content to real-life situations. Therefore it is critical that this piece be allotted the most time for completion and be a good example of how the pre-class knowledge is applied in the field.

During this portion, the instructor travels between teams facilitating discussion and assisting with questions. This exercise can include previous material so it connects concepts within the whole course and should be built with the Learning Outcomes in mind, utilizing the Four S Framework (see text box) to structure and guide the development.

Summation and Debrief – (5 minutes)

The final step is a brief summation of the groups’ findings and a quick review of the material from the professor’s point of view.


Top Hat

Top Hat is anticipating the release of a new platform to administer the IRAT and TRAT portions of this exercise in Fall 2018. Watch for updates.

More Resources

Team-Based Learning at the University of Texas – 12:26 minutes

This video walks the viewer through team-based learning from a planning perspective and from a student perspective, in addition the viewer gets to see all the steps in action.

Duke School of Medicine Embraces Team-Based Learning – 2:41 minutes

This video gives a high-level view of Team-Based Learning from both the teacher and student perspective. It doesn’t get into the details of the activity, but it’s a good overview.