This proposal reports on how team-based learning (TBL) has been introduced within an Occupation Therapy (OT) module at the University of Northampton as a student-centred approach to encourage active learning.
TBL is a form of collaborative learning based on strategically formed, permanent teams, and consists of preclass preparation, readiness assurance tests, and application activities (Michaelsen et al., 2014). This method has been employed in a variety of disciplines, including medical and healthcare education (Vasan et al., 2008; Parmelee, 2008). Research related to TBL indicates a number of areas in which student learning can be enhanced. For example, TBL offers an active learning strategy and a student-centred approach (Parmelee, 2008) in which higher levels of student engagement can be achieved (Levine et al., 2004; Dana, 2007).
Between October 2014 and April 2015, TBL has been piloted with 43 students studying an OT module called Functional Human Sciences, in the School of Health, University of Northampton. The tutors have redeveloped the module. Each week the teaching is structured in 4 parts guided by the TBL principles:
- Content and resources available on the University’s Blackboard VLE for the students to study individually and prepare before the class.
- A 20-minute Individual Readiness Assurance test (iRA), comprised of 20 multiple choice questions (MCQs) based on preparatory content, conducted by the students individually via Blackboard in the class.
- A 40-minute Team Readiness Assurance test (tRA) in which the students tackle the same 20 MCQs within a team via Blackboard in the class.
- Application activities, comprised of practical sessions and examination of real-life case studies.
The module uses continuous assessment comprised of 12 iRA (weighted 30%), 12 tRA (10%), a group wiki (formative feedback), and an individual essay (60%).
The results from the MCQ tests are consistent with what the literature shows – the team scores consistently out-perform the individual scores. It is not uncommon that even the weakest teams seem to out-perform the best-performing individuals.
TBL has been recognised by the module team as a way to move students from knowledge acquisition to the ability to analyse, evaluate and apply knowledge to practice based scenarios.
Technology is required to support the TBL sessions. Students need to bring their own laptop or tablet to complete the MCQ tests, and they need to sit in a place where the wifi connection is reliable. This has presented a number of technical and logistical challenges, including the access to an appropriate device, sufficient wireless connection, and access to an appropriate learning space.
An evaluation assessing the effectiveness of TBL to student learning has been conducted in April 2015 using a questionnaire completed by 31 students and focus groups with 15 students. This will be followed by personal interviews with the course tutors in July 2015. We will share the positive and challenging experiences in full at the conference.
We hope that at the end of the presentation participants will get some ideas on what TBL is and the challenges they might face when implementing TBL in teaching.