Learning with Teams

Learning with Teams

 By Janet Winston and Kimberly Vincent-Layton, 2015

Team learning is a real-world experience that benefits students beyond the confines of one project, one class, and even a college career. Teamwork is a valuable skill both in and outside the workplace. What does “Team” mean? TEAM stands for: Together Everyone Achieves More (Bo-Linn, 2014)  Although we often hear complaints from students about “group work”, research consistently points to significant benefits of working in teams.

The terms Team-based Learning (TBL), Cooperative Learning and Collaborative Learning are often used interchangeably when discussing group learning because they all focus on active learning within small groups. However, there are some significant differences between these formats.  Collaborative Learning is considered the least structured, followed by Cooperative Learning, and then with Team-based Learning the most structured.  While Collaborative Learning tends to have the instructor as the authority, Cooperative Learning empowers the group/team and includes assigned roles. Team-based Learning has a very specific structure that includes four essential elements: permanent teams, readiness assurance, application activities, and peer evaluation. Each of these is discussed in detail at the Team-based Learning Collaborative website. In short, TBL incorporates teams that stay and work together through the term, pre-activities to get teams started, application activities that involve team problem solving, and finally, a peer evaluation component.

One of they keys to a successful team learning environment can be looked out through the lense of Tuckman’s Stages of Team Development.  There are five stages including: forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning (transforming). Each of these stages is important to the team process.  Here are some suggested tools and strategies to ensure high-performing teams:

Forming/Storming: The Team Contract

Working together with classmates can be both challenging and rewarding, so it is important to start off on the right track by having them discuss and agree on how they will work together as a team.

Norming/Performing: Midpoint Feedback, incremental team feedback (the Feedback Form)

Adjourning (Transforming): Team Survey, Team Reflection

As you consider what structure you’d like to use in your classroom, take a look at the Team Resources below to understand how you might apply a specific format, or modify one to fit the needs of your students’ learning.

Team Resources:

Team Tools:


Team-based Learning Collaborative www.teambasedlearning.org

Teamwork by Unhindered by Talent, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License

Online Discussion Boards: Strategies to Ease Instructor Burden and Promote Student Learning – OLC

Solid ideas from OLC..

Online Discussion Boards: Strategies to Ease Instructor Burden and Promote Student Learning – OLC.

Abbreviated list of strategies:

  • instructor should review learning outcomes prior to the term and tailor discussion content to extend and enrich the material.
  • instructor should post the initial response to all discussion forums.
  • the instructor should create and save a series of daily discussion posts that can be cut and pasted into the forums (thoughts on the topic, links to resources, or scholarship to further engage students in the discussion).
  • the instructor should consider posting an additional prompt encouraging students.
  • YouTube videos, Ted Talks, news articles, etc. should be posted to make the discussions technologically rich.
  • narrative comments should be posted as part of assignment feedback directing students to revisit and comment on something in the discussion forum.
  • The instructor should respond to the initial post a student makes in each forum (ask a question, affirm something the student stated, redirect if the student is off-topic, or provide a link to a resource the student might enjoy).