Team-based Learning

Dr. Stephanie Call, Professor of Internal Medicine, describes the value of using TBL in clinical settings and the TBL Collaborative.

Dr. Diane Biskobing, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, highlights challenges and opportunities using TBL as a teaching strategy.

Why should I use TBL?

TBL is a classroom learning activity that promotes student engagement and team interaction. It shifts the focus of classroom time from the instructor providing lectures to the students’ teams applying course concepts.

How do I start?

Be comfortable with the concept of student engagement and the faculty’s role as facilitator.
Peruse the resources listed in this section. From there you can contact one of the faculty development professionals for a consultation or to participate in an informal, monthly faculty teaching interest group session on TBL. You can also request to observe a TBL activity in the current curriculum.

How long does it take to prepare a good TBL session?

This depends on whether you will use resources already developed by others or will develop your own. Initially it is a good idea to take advantage of shared resources.

How much time will a TBL session take in the classroom?

A session usually requires a 2 – 3 hour block. It can also span more than one class session.

What are the key elements of TBL?

There are 4 key design principles that work together to make TBL successful:

  1. Large teams are required (of 5-7 people) and they should be diverse and permanent.
  2. Accountability occurs through student pre-class preparation and contributions to team process.
  3. Students make complex decisions by applying course concepts that are reported in a simple, efficient way.
  4. Frequent and timely feedback is provided to students from peers and faculty.

What are the 4-S’s of the Application Exercises?

The best application exercises in a TBL provide teams with an opportunity to:

  1. Address a Significant problem demonstrating the concept.
  2. Choose a Specific solution from multiple options.
  3. Work with the Same problem as other teams.
  4. Report Simultaneously on their chosen solutions. (Michaelson & Sweet, 2008)

What are the steps I should take to ensure a successful TBL session?

  1. Read the information presented in the concepts section of this module.
  2. Talk to others who have successfully used TBL.
  3. Schedule a consultation with a faculty development professional.
  4. Review shared resources to see if an activity already exists that you can use.
  5. Practice your activity before your official class session.
  6. Participate in faculty teaching interest group sessions with others interested in TBL.


Team-Based Learning is an increasingly-popular form of small group learning. The four components of TBL are permanent teams, readiness assurance, application activities, and peer evaluation. (UT Austin, 2009)


Readiness Assurance Process is the accountability system used to confirm that students have completed their pre-assignment and are ready to participate knowledgeably in the group discussion.  This process consists of a test that is taken first by the individual and then by the group.


Individual Readiness Assurance Test is the individual component of the RAP where students complete a series of questions on the assignment individually and submit for grading. This typically takes 10-15 minutes for students to complete.  IRAT scores count toward the student’s grade.


Group Readiness Assurance Test is a repeat of the same questions on the IRAT, but is completed collaboratively by the team and is submitted for grading and discussion. This also takes 10-15 minutes for students to complete.  Scores on the GRAT regularly surpass IRAT scores, and GRAT scores count toward the student’s grade.

Appeals Process / Challenges

A group can submit an appeal about an answer to a GRAT question that they think is correct that is different than the one designated as correct. They must justify their reasoning. If the instructor chooses to accept their challenge, they will then get credit for their alternative answer. If the challenge is declined, their grade does not change.

Application Exercises

After completing the Readiness Assurance Process (IRAT and GRAT), students use the knowledge that they gained from the pre-class reading and the GRAT discussion and apply this information to case based questions.  These applications take the form of a case presentation with MCQs, and should have one best answer.  However, the exercises should not be 100% clear cut; there should be reasons why some answers are correct but not the best choice.  The goal of these exercises is not only to apply the concepts but also to get students talking about them.  It is through discussion that the knowledge is solidified.  These exercises do not count toward the grade.

IF-AT Form

Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique Form is a scratch-off, scantron-like form that allows students to answer multiple times during the GRAT.  If the group scratches off the correct answer on the first try a star appears, and the team can move to the next question.  If a star does not appear, the group can make a second attempt but will receive less credit for having missed the question initially.