The editors of Team-Based Learning Larry K. Michaelsen (Central Missouri State University), Arletta Bauman Knight and L. Dee Fink (University of Oklahoma) wrote their book to share their excitement about team-based learning with other faculty. The book is divided into four sections: an overview of team-based learning; personal experiences; a summary; and appendices. Each chapter reiterates that team-based learning improves content coverage, enhances student attention and retention, and results in higher scores on tests that measure course content. Small groups differ from teams in that: (1) small groups are formed for short periods of time, whereas students in a team-based learning approach work together for the duration of the course; (2) small group activities are best used for applications of content, whereas team-based learning targets initial concepts as well as applications; (3) students in small groups tend to divide work according to individual strengths, whereas students in a team-based learning approach must work together on all assignments.
In Section One, relevant literature is presented that supports the editors' thesis. The level of course organization, team management, and the complexity of assignments that make team-based learning both initially overwhelming and extremely gratifying is described. Immediate feedback is crucial to the success of team-based learning, as is careful development of assessments (called Readiness Assessment Tests, or RATs) and group assignments. Section Two of the book presents snapshots from a continuum of experiences: from Michaelsen, who developed the team-based learning approach and has used the approach since the 1970s, to a contributing author who writes about her first experience using team-based learning in a course for beginning business students. Other chapters provide first-person accounts regarding team-based instruction in various academic areas: organic chemistry; health education; biology; a college course in personal growth for deaf students; and accounting. The reader will likely find a familiar situation in at least one of the scenarios. Concerns such as, "I teach a large (or small or online) class," or "I teach a course that only meets on weekends" are addressed in almost every chapter. Section Three repeats the message of Section One.
The fourth section of the book, divided into appendices, provides the "how-to" to implement team-based learning. Appendix A is written in a question-answer format to address questions such as, "How should I form the teams?," "What should I do when students are absent?," and "How do I write good RATs?" Appendices B and C describe tested approaches and personal anecdotes for calculating peer evaluation scores and course grades.
The editors and contributing authors of Team-Based Learning motivate the reader to consider using this instructional approach. However, the editors acknowledge that faculty will spend a "significant amount of time to restructure their courses and develop effective team assignments. On the other hand, this task is largely a one-time effort" (p. 213). In reality, faculty will likely spend the first, second, and possibly the third administrations fine-tuning the course. The greatest challenge may be in the conscious shift of small groups into teams. It would be wise for faculty to enroll in a team-based learning workshop to learn how to implement this approach effectively and efficiently and to work with a mentor. The "one-time effort" comment is somewhat misleading, since instructors often change topics, textbooks, etc. in their courses. Small or manageable revisions of a team-based learning course are to be expected.
Lori Houghton Wright
University of the Virgin Islands, St. Croix