CELebrate 2017: An Introduction to Team-based Learning

An Introduction to Team-based Learning, Jonny Branney

Jonny Branney’s Team-based Learning (TBL) workshop gave delegates the opportunity to experience TBL first-hand and find out how they might implement this strategy to boost student engagement in their own classes. Student-centred active learning approaches are considered to be effective ways for promoting students’ engagement with their learning, but lecturers wishing to use such approaches often face challenges.

Teaching in universities has traditionally had an emphasis on knowledge transmission from the expert to the learner such as in the use of lectures (teacher-centred) which arguably make learners dependent on lecturers (Jarvis 2010). Further, lectures have been criticised as promoting passivity and potentially boredom in students (O’Neill and McMahon 2005). However, breaking with tradition is rarely easy. A further challenge to the use of student-centred active learning has been the continuing increase in the number of students attending university. This pressurises the lecturer’s ability to deliver approaches which typically rely on smaller groups of students.

Team-based Learning (TBL), a collaborative learning and teaching strategy, was suggested as a way of facing down some of these challenges.    Based on the study of more than 20,000 students,  Astin (1993 cited in Saville et al 2012) identified three specific types of student involvement that best predict academic success:

(1) time on task;

(2) student-student interactions;

(3) student-staff interactions.

TBL promotes these three keys to academic success through the promotion of both independent learning and team-learning. It allows the facilitation of small-group working even in the large group setting (for example, a full lecture theatre) and has been successfully utilised across many undergraduate and postgraduate courses including education, social work, law, psychology, mathematics, engineering, nursing, medicine, physiotherapy and public health (Haidet et al 2014).

There is evidence that TBL facilitates team participation and greater knowledge retention over traditional lectures (Haidet et al 2014) and promotes the development of critical thinking (Branson et al 2016) and decision-making skills (Kim et al 2016).

Jonny Branney can be contacted here for more information about the workshop.


Branson, S., Boss, L. and Fowler, D., 2016. Team-based learning: application in undergraduate baccalaureate nursing education. Journal of Nursing Education and Practice, 6 (4), 59-64.

Haidet, P., Kubitz, K. and McCormack, W. T., 2014. Analysis of the Team-Based Learning Literature: TBL Comes of Age. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 3&4 (25), 303-333.

Jarvis, P., 2010. Adult Education and Lifelong Learning: Theory and Practice. 4th London: Routledge.

Kim HR, Song Y, Lindquist R, Kang HY (2016). Effects of team-based learning on problem-solving, knowledge and clinical performance of Korean nursing students. Nurse Education Today, 38:115-118.

O’Neill, G. and McMahon, T., 2005. Student-centred learning: What does it mean for students and lecturers? [online]. Dublin: All Ireland Society for Higher Education (AISHE).

Saville BK, Lawrence NK, Jakobsen KV (2012). Creating learning communities in the classroom. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 132(4):57-69.


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