Active/Team Based Learning

Research supports the practice of engaging students in activities and projects which require them to apply content knowledge and skills. As an instructor, you can help improve your students’ learning by helping students use facts, techniques and principles. We can work with you to structure and develop your courses, as well as assess the impact of your efforts on the course and students.

Our active learning workshops prepare instructors to flip courses and transform classrooms (whether virtual, real, or blended) into environments that motivate students and encourage participatory learning.

12 Step Guide for Teaching in an Active/Team-Based Learning Classroom

  1. Observe others using the room.
  2. Get familiar with the tech in the room before your first class.
  3. Plan how you will introduce your students to the room, the pedagogy and the tech. Establish norms for classroom etiquette.
  4. Recognize that students in active learning classrooms will need to participate in ways that may be new and counter intuitive to them. Sometimes the students that have succeeded in lecture style formats will be the most frustrated in an active learning classroom. You have changed the rules of the game so you need to help them understand the new rules. You could use this as an opportunity to help students to start monitoring their own learning as well as to take responsibility for learning.
  5. Students must come to class prepared. They have to be mature enough to understand this. Hold students accountable both for out of class content as well as in class activities. If you find students are not prepared, consider asking prepared students to explain the content rather than doing so yourself. Be mindful of the amount of time students will need to spend out of class covering content (videos, textbooks, other readings) as well as any other assignments you want to give them.
  6. You will receive constant feedback from the students. Be flexible.
  7. If you find yourself frustrated or challenged by the configuration of the room, consider if your instructional strategy does not match the strategy supported by the room.
  8. Consider training students to work in groups as one of the skills that you need to help them learn as part of the course. Consider if you want groups to persist for the entire term or change class to class. In either case, strive for heterogeneous groups where possible.
  9. Some institutions use the term “team-based learning” to describe rooms like this. Each table is naturally a group within the class. Also consider creating subgroups at the tables so that a problem or question may be addressed by a subgroup, a table and then the class. If necessary, assign students to roles in the group.
  10. Consider how you will assess individual learning as well as group assignments. Students need to be accountable for both. Some faculty approach this by having students complete and submit an individual assessment and then complete the same assessment as a team. Both are graded. One of the benefits of this is that individuals are motivated to succeed for the sake of the team rather than coast or watch.
  11. The rooms are designed for active, problem-based and collaborative learning. Plan and structure activities with this in mind. For instance, insure that each member in a group is engaged and responsible to the group.
  12. Structure activities that will help students apply content, concepts and skills they are learning to a problem. Make certain activities are clearly presented and have a time limit for completion. Consider class as a time to do in-depth study of key concepts rather than a time to cover a wide breadth of content.
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Resources and Research

“Farewell, Lecture?” Science 02 Jan 2009 Vol 323 Issue 5910, pp. 50-51

A clicker-based case study that untangles student thinking about the processes in the central dogma.  CourseSource: Evidence-based teaching resources for undergraduate biology education, December 2016.

“Rules of engagement: Transforming the teaching of college-level science.”  National Science Foundation, Where Discoveries Begin, December 18, 2014.

Guides for teaching in Active/Team-Based Learning Classrooms from other Universities:

University of Minnesota

UMASS Amherst

New York University