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The model of TEAM Model Team-based Learning: Vision and Practice

Team-based learning is an innovative teaching strategy and model, in which the classroom structure is to place the class into multiple teams and to learn and solve problems through self-learning, thinking, discussing, and expressing their ideas.
This article will discuss the TBL (team-based learning) model, under the TEAM Model idea, and to raise cases that have utilized this model in practice. First, we will elaborate on the academic fundamentals of the original team-based learning, then integrate TEAM Model and the concept of smarter classroom, and raise the topic of the TEAM Model TBL. We will describe this model’s merits and advantages, and then combined with practical experiences; we will talk about the TBL application environment and key application system under a smarter classroom setting. In the past, it was immensely difficult for teachers to realize the idea of modern education in a traditional classroom, but with the aid of technology, we can make this innovative process easier. Finally, this paper will also talk about a case study on the TBL model, which realizes the in-depth integration of education and information technology.

i. Smarter class founded under the concept of modern education and smarter classroom

To keep up with the impending era of globalization of competition and knowledge economics, the reformation of education has reestablished its focus on fostering diverse skill-sets of a student. Like organizations or countries such as the UNESCO, EU, and the United States, which have all brought forth key skill-set indicators in the 21st century such as lifelong learning, effective communications, creative thinking, problem-solving, and teamwork (Huang, 2010), the 12-year compulsory education policy in Taiwan also highlights visionary targets such as “merit-based on individual characters” and “enhancing citizenship qualities” (Ministry of Education, 2010). The “Mid-to-long-term educational reform and development planning abstract (2010-2020)” in Mainland China also set forth targets such as “Quality Educational Reform” and “Lifelong Learning” (Xinhua, 2010). From the skill-set indicators brought forth by international organizations and the educational policies implemented by each country, we can be certain that the idea of modern education will place more emphasis on the learning quality and the nurturing of diverse aptitude of students.
Under such trends of global educational thinking, classroom teaching has become the core to educational reform. As opposed to the traditional teacher-centered teaching method, according to much literature on educational research and learning theories, student-centered method is the best teaching method that reflects diversity (Shi, 2012a). Many educators and frontline teachers have all brought forth innovative teaching methods that correspond with the modern educational concept, for instance, Peer Instruction (Mazur, 1997), Collaborative Learning (translated by Huang and Chung, 2012), Flipped Classroom (Bishop & Verleger, 2013), Learning, Thinking and Expressing (Chang, 2015), IRS – Interactive Response System (Liu, Liang, Wang, Chan & Wei, 2003) etc. In practice, most classroom teaching is composed of a mixture of teacher-centered and student-centered, but if we were to separate the “teaching” and “learning” in the classroom, we can classify as the following models: Lecture-Based Learning (LBL), Team-Based Learning (TBL) (Michaelsen, Knight & Fink, 2002), and Problem-Based Learning (PBL) (Barrows & Tamblyn, 1980) etc., with the highest form being the student-centered 1-to-1 learning (see Figure 1). In these teaching models, we can utilize the intelligence, convenience, and efficiency (ICE) teaching environment enabled by modern technology (such as electronic whiteboards, student-tablet, mobile devices, IRS clickers) to assist teachers to realize various innovative teaching models. Hence, the classroom teaching revolution founded on the idea of modern education can be interpreted as a process from teacher-centered to student-centered teaching (Chang & Wu, 2014).

Figure 1. The “teaching” and “learning” models during class

ii. The merits and advantages of TBL model

TBL (team-based learning) contains multiple steps according to Michaelsen’s definition: it contains preview, individual testing, team testing, team discussion, and group work etc. These steps encourage students to self-study, and to ensure the basic outcomes of self-studying in a student, with added values of individual and group tests. Team testing will be conducted in discussing and reaching for a consensus, and should a team have any questions, they will also be encouraged to raise them and interact with teachers. The target effect is to equip students with fundamental knowledge, and to achieve learning outcomes with higher-level teamwork. The TBL learning steps would take longer to prepare under Michaelsen’s definition, and special testing papers would need to be printed; thus, it is often adopted by medical school systems which have more resources, and are rarely found in basic education. Later on, Michaelsen has also pointed out that the key in TBL is in appropriate grouping, the methods of ensuring individual learning assessing team learning, instant and repeated response and interaction, as well as designing team-based tasks that induce learning and teamwork (Michaelsen & Sweet, 2008). If we were to utilize the primary keys in this definition flexibly, TBL would then become the most feasible core in all innovative teaching models currently being developed. For example, the Learning Community and the Learning, Thinking, and Expressing models currently taking the education field by storm, are all practical methods that look to the TBL spirit.
TEAM Model TBL is an innovative teaching strategy and model founded under TBL (team-based learning) and smarter classroom, and it contains the following merits (see Table 1).
Table 1. TBL method’s merits
1. Grouping of teamsSeparate the class into various teams.
2. Pose a problemThe core of the class will be on team-based discussion and problem-solving.
3. Proactive learningStudents should be proactively initiating learning.
4. Teacher’s guidanceA teacher’s goal is to guide and facilitate the motivation for teamwork.
5. Social learningStudents learn in a socialized context and give full play to the strengths of large-class teaching.
6. Technological assistanceA teacher will utilize technology to facilitate student’s learning.
7. Perceiving the thinking processA teacher is in perceiving of the learning of individual, teams, and the entire class.
The TBL classroom setting places a class into several teams and with student’s self-learning as a basis, the class will be focused on team-based discussion and problem-solving. Having a student thinking and solving problems by himself (herself) helps the student to proactively think, and on the other hand, team-based discussion allows students with varying levels to learn and benefit under a real-world simulation environment, or in other words, practice makes perfect. The real-world environment refers to human interaction, communication, cooperation, discussion, and sharing. TBL model has these traits, allowing the large classroom setting in most schools these days to exert their maximum effects.
In a classroom that practices the TBL model, a teacher’s role is transformed from the original knowledge giver, to a guide in learning. Research has shown that the normal talking speed of an average person is around 200 words per minute, and the reading speed of an elementary school student can reach 400 words per minute, while as middle and high school students can even achieve over 500-600 words per minute (Sung, n.d.; Sun, Morita, Stark, 1985; Sun, 1993). Hence, by decreasing a teacher’s lecture in a class and increasing the time for students to self-study and reflect, the efficiency of relaying and taking in information can also be enhanced. Once the classroom lecture has decreased, a teacher will instead focus on utilizing activity design and classroom management strategies to induce team motivation, and through utilizing educational technology to assist student’s learning, and to observe student’s thinking. In this way, a teacher will be able to stay on top of the learning processes of individuals, teams, and even the entire class.
The TBL model is advantageous for teacher's teaching and student's learning(see Table 2).
Table 2. Advantages of the TBL model
To a student’s learning process:1. Induce passion in proactive learning.
2. Promote high-level thinking such as integration, assessment, and creativity.
3. Foster the understanding and skills in teamwork.
To a teacher’s teaching process:1. It can place equal emphasis on the educational needs of testing and attaining diverse skill-sets.
2. It’s easier to switch from teacher-centered to student-centered.
3. Students of all levels can benefit.
4. It can be incorporated with classroom activities such as Flipped Classroom.
In terms of a student’s learning, TBL model can stimulate the student to solve problems and improve his (her) passion in proactive learning. Students participate in problems and situations in class, enhancing their motivation and desire to learn, and experiments and research have proven that this helps to enhance the effectiveness in student’s learning (McInerney & Fink, 2003; Tan, Kandiah, Chan, Umapathi, Lee, & Tan, 2011). In the process of interacting and exchanging ideas with their peers and teachers, students’ higher-level thinking capability such as integration, assessment, and creation are enhanced, which further leads to key expertise essential in future leaders such as communications, innovation, thinking, collaboration, and problem-solving ( Shi, 2012b). For a teacher, there are also many advantages in carrying out TBL model in a classroom. For instance, when a teacher wishes for changes to occur, he (she) might hesitate due to pressure from test performance. On the other hand, TBL model has already been proven by studies to simultaneously enhance students’ diverse talents and quantitative scores. When a teacher’s lecture time is decreased in a classroom, students will have more time to self-learn, think, and discuss, which actually presents teachers with the opportunity to switch from teacher-centered teaching to student-centered. The peer learning and learning through practice between students can benefit students with varying levels. Moreover, the TBL model is also a very suitable in-class activity in a Flipped Classroom, as both models contain elements of self-learning, in-class discussion, and student-centered learning.

iii. The application environment of TBL model

The TBL Smarter Classroom solution of TEAM Model Smarter Classroom (TMSC) series is a set of auxiliary system solutions that can assist teachers to implement TBL team-based learning mode in the classroom. It is highly integrated with classroom group tablets, student IRS clickers or mobile devices, TEAM Model Cloud’s IES smarter teaching service and smartphone’s "HiTA 5 app" allow teachers to activate the TBL teamwork learning model and strategy at any time in the classroom. Teachers can fully grasp the preview status of each student through the cloud platform before class, conveniently and efficiently collect, organize, and classify the results of student discussions in the classroom, grasp the learning effectiveness of each group in real time, and give full play to the advantages of team-based learning and strengthen the effectiveness of team-based learning.

Figure 2. TBL model’s application environment
As shown in Figure 2, in a TEAM Model smarter classroom, students are placed in multiple teams, and each time will be equipped with a tablet PC, which will be used as a tool to collect data, create output and feedback. Every student holds an IRS clicker and can offer individualized feedback for in-class activities such as problems, research, and peer assessment. For a list of classroom equipment, please see Table 3.
Table 3. TBL smarter classroom equipment
Teacher’s computer1 computer, installed with HiTeach software and integrated with various equipment.
HiTeach smarter teaching system  1 set, offers application tools for software integration and allows teachers to discuss and interact with various teams.
Super-short throw projector1 projector, which projects computer images to the electronic whiteboard.
Haboard interactive  whiteboard1 set, serves as the multimedia touch panel for teacher teaching. (Or other large touch LCD screens).
IRS clicker or mobile device with Web IRS1 set, includes student remotes (depending on class size, one for each student), and receivers etc., to instantly attain students’ feedback or assessment.
Tablet PCSeveral tablet PCs(depending on the number of teams, one for each team)serve as the tool for teams’ discussion, writing, and production.
HiGroupSeveral sets of authorizations (depending on the number of groups, each tablet needs 1 set of connection authorization), providing tools for discussion, and the transfer of messages and data with the teacher’s computer.
HiTA appInstalled in the teacher’s smartphone so the teacher could utilize the software to control HiTeach and take photos during class monitoring.
IESIES Smarter Teaching Service provides such as class list, management for data related to learning processes, course material, and multimedia resources.
Video:HiTeach TBL
Figure 3 and figure 4 represent sample seating allocation in a TBL classroom.

Figure 3. TBL classroom seating allocation sample 1


Figure 4. TBL classroom seating allocation sample 2
Teachers, on the other hand, would utilize the HiTeach system, in which they will present course material on an electronic whiteboard or touch-screen, incorporate the discussion results of students (such as Figure 5-A), examine the learning outcomes of each team, and conduct smarter class monitoring with the HiTA app in their smartphones. Teachers can instantly photograph students’ enthusiastic discussions, the team’s outcomes, or individual student’s unique thinking and work, and this can be instantly shown and shared with the rest of the class, adding on to the wealth of course materials.
Compared to having each student take control of a tablet PC, having a tablet PC per team greatly lessens a teacher’s pressure in equipment management. In addition, by sharing a tablet PC with a team, a student will focus more in class, and won’t be caught up by using the tablet all the time (Figure 5-B).

A A teacher is compiling results of students’ discussions on the electronic whiteboard.

B Students are using their team’s tablet PC as the tool for their discussion and research
Figure 5. Actual scenes of studying in a TBL classroom

iv. The key mechanism in TBL model

As a matter of fact, ever since it was first conceived in the 1980s, TBL model has since been developing for over 30 years. Theoretically, it can be seen as a developmental divergent from the PBL learning model, which started in the 1950s in medical education (Kuan, 2014). In the past, teachers are met with challenges when attempting to exert TBL in a traditional classroom, for instance, ineffective discussions within teams, or even no discussions. During class, a teacher was only capable of focusing on the discussions and presentations of each team, and overlooked the individual differences between students. In a team, there may be a student, who wished to take control over everything, or students who were shunned, or students who could not keep up with the class; when a team was presenting, other teams might have been busy preparing their own reports. Finally, even though students were placed in teams and teachers had designed discussion questions, but the target of TBL may have been missed due to these situations, so that teaching effectiveness was no different from traditional teaching. Only the middle-ranged students were cared for, and both gifted students and students falling behind were overlooked.
Hence, how to achieve synergy and avoid the situation of everybody’s business becoming nobody’s business, has become an important issue in carrying out TBL model. Figure 6 lists out seven mechanisms, which are crucial keys to carrying out a successful TBL model.

Figure 6. Key mechanisms in Team-Based Learning model

A. IRS instantly reflect Q&A conditions

B. Ratio of attaining correct answers in the entire class

C. Pie charts of each team’s ratio of attaining correct answers
Figure 7. The use of Smart Classroom to be accurately aware of the learning conditions of individuals, groups, and classes
Figure 8. A teacher utilizing the Smart Class Monitoring function and using the Smart TA application to capture students’ works
Figure 9. A teacher compiling the results of discussion and outputs of students on the electronic whiteboard
  • Heterogeneous grouping: Create opportunities for peer learning and balance teamwork resources, teachers should undertake differential grouping. The “differential” could potentially refer to academic performance, gender, characteristics, skills or expertise. All in all, a team is more likely to exert the benefits of teamwork if the team could have dissimilar students. 
  • Precision in monitoring: Teachers can stay on top of the individual, team, or the happenings of the entire class through technology. For example, starting from raising a question, from the speed of each team’s response (Figure 7-A), the ratio of attaining correct answers for each team (Figure 7-B), a teacher will instantly become aware of which students or teams require extra assistance. Through the bar graph of ratios of correct answers, a teacher can precisely monitor the entire class’s level of understanding of a concept, and can go on to make minor adjustments to his (her) teaching progress (Figure 7-C).
  • Team motivation: Through monitoring the class and randomly posing questions, a teacher can pay attention to the happenings of each team and encourage team discussion and learning. Additionally, a teacher can also record classroom activity through the HiTA app or collect students’ works, which will serve as course materials that are most relevant to the students (Figure 8).
  • Thinking and discussion: Discussion and exchange between peers should be founded on the basis of individual thinking, so the design of the discussion mechanism should be “individual thinking before team discussion”. A student should be required to undertake self-learning and thinking first. So a teacher can also ask students to note down their thinking or procedures in solving the problem first, prior to undertaking discussions. 
  • Competitive collaboration: A teacher should be able to coherently display the outcomes of each team (see Figure 9), so that all students can observe each other’s results. By utilizing these observations, students’ competitiveness will grow, and “competitiveness” should inspire “teamwork”.
  • Selecting a student to present: When managing a class, each and every student should maintain recognition and feel proud to be part of his (her) team, and when each team is presenting its results, a teacher should conduct a ballot-draw to randomly select a member to present his (her) team. In this way, students will attempt to teach every single member in the team to attain glorious outcomes as a team. In other words, through random selection of members to represent the teams, a teacher is able to inspire “mutual learning” amongst the students.
  • Assessment and reward: When each team has successfully produced outputs, in addition to the teacher’s assessment, students can also undertake simple and instantaneous peer-assessment, or in-depth Q&A interactions, through which, students’ participation level in the learning tasks will be enhanced. Finally, a teacher should make good use of the scoring board and design a positive scoring system. The individuals or teams that perform exceptionally well should be rewarded. “Assessment” will then stimulate “participation”.

v. Cases of TBL model implementation

Stringent teaching processes have been dictated for the TBL circle by academia. However, for a frontline teacher who needs to face children with different ages and characteristics as well as teach different subjects, as long as its vision and key mechanisms are maintained, TBL model’s benefits can also be exerted to positive effects. In the past, in a traditional classroom, it was immensely difficult for a teacher in attempting to switch from a lecture-based course to a TBL, or even PBL model (see Figure 10); on the contrary, through the aid of technology, many objective limitations or ironies can be solved, so that this breakthrough, innovative process can become as easy as what is shown in Figure 11.

Figure 10. Under the groundwork of traditional classroom, the threshold to realizing modern educational theories is high

Figure 11. With the support of smarter lecture, the threshold to realizing modern educational theories is low
Finally, the below picture depicts TBL expert Dr. Jen Kai Liang, demonstrating a 7th grade Probability class in a TEAM Model Smarter classroom. He has perfectly demonstrated technology-facilitated TBL model.

vi. Bibliography

Chinese literature
  • 張奕華、吳權威(Chang, I-Hua and Wu, Chuan-Wei)(2014)。智慧教育:理念與實踐。3-7。(Smarter Education: Vision & Practice. 3-7.)
  • 史美瑤(Shi, Mei-Yao)(2012a)。21世紀的教學:以「學生學習為中心」的教師發展。評鑑雙月刊,36。(21 st Century Education: Teacher’s development in a student-centered study. Evaluation Bimonthly, 36.)取自
  • 史美瑤(Shi, Mei-Yao)(2012b)。以學生學習為中心的教學:團隊導向學習法。評鑑雙月刊,38。(Student-centered teaching: Team-based learning method. Evaluation Bimonthly, 38.) 取自
  • 佐藤學(Sato, Manabu)(2012)。學習的革命-從教室出發的改革。黃郁倫、鐘啟泉(譯)。臺北市:天下雜誌股份有限公司。(The revolution of learning – changes starting from a classroom. Translated by Yu-Lun Huang and Chi-Chuan Chung. Taipei: CommonWealth Magazine.)
  • (Sato, Manabu)
  • 宋欣橋(Hsin-Chiao Sung)。普通話朗誦的語速掌握。普通話速遞(編號385)。香港中文大學普通話教育研究及發展中心。(Grasping the reading speed of Mandarin Chinese. Putonghua Express (Number 385). Putonghua Education Research and Development Center, Chinese University of Hong Kong.)取自
  • 張輝誠(Hui-Cheng Chang)。學思達教學法(Learning, Thinking, Expressing Teaching Method.) 。網址:學思達教學。Accessed on January 13, 2015.
  • 教育部(Ministry of Education)(2012)。十二年國民基本教育入學方式說明暨各方案執行展示。教育部十二年國民基本教育專案辦公。頁2-4。(Demonstration of execution of various projects and explanation of admissions method of 12-year citizen’s basic education. Special Unit of 12-year Citizen’s Basic Education, Ministry of Education. Pages 2-4.)
  • 黃子瓔(Tzu-Ying Huang)(2010)。從3R到4C:淺談21世紀能力的發展與趨勢。數位典藏與學習電子報,9(11)(From 3R to 4C: A brief talk on the development and trend of capabilities in the 21st century. Digital Collections and Learning Newsletter, 9(11).) 。取自
  • 新華社(Xinhua News Agency)(2010年7月29日)。授權發布:國家中長期教育改革和發展規劃綱要(2010-2020年)。(Authorized to release: summary of national mid-to-long-term range education reform and development planning(2010-2020).) 取自
  • 關超然(Chao-Ran Guan)(December 2014)。2014。PBL之理念與原則。亞太PBL聯合會議衛星工作坊:PBL案例深耕培訓,汕頭大學醫學院(Visions and principles of PBL. Asia-Pac PBL council satellite workshop: In-depth training of PBL subject case. Shantou University Medical College.)。
English literature
  • Barrows H.S. & Tamblyn R.M. (1980) Problem-Based Learning: An Approach to Medical Education. New York: Springer Publishing Company, p.1.
  • Bishop, J. L., & Verleger, M. A. (2013). The flipped classroom: A survey of the research. In ASEE National Conference Proceedings, Atlanta, GA.
  • Eric Mazur (1997). Peer Instruction: A User's Manual Series in Educational Innovation. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ
  • Liu, T.C., Liang, J.K., Wang, H.Y., Chan, T.W. & Wei, L.H. (2003) The Features and Potential of Interactive Response System. In proceedings of ICCE 2003. pp. 315-322
  • McInerney, M. & Fink, L. D. (2003). Team-based learning enhances long-term retention and critical thinking in an undergraduate microbial physiology course. Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education, 4, 3-12
  • Michaelsen, L. K., Knight, A. B., Fink, L.D. (2004) Team-Based Learning: A Transformative Use of Small Groups in College Teaching. Stylus, Sterling, VA.
  • Michaelsen, L. K., & Sweet, M. (2008). The essential elements of team‐based learning. New directions for teaching and learning, 2008(116), 7-27.
  • Sun, F. (1993). Eye movements in reading Chinese: Paragraphs, single characters and pinyin. In S. F. Wright & R. Groner(Eds.), Facets of dyslexia and its remediation (pp. 245-255).Elsevier.
  • Sun, F., Morita, M., & Stark, L. A. (1985). comparative patterns of reading eye movement in Chinese and English.Perception & Psychophysics, 37, 502-506.
  • Tan, N. CK, Kandiah, N., Chan, Y. H., Umapathi, T., Lee, S. H., & Tan, K. (2011). A controlled study of team-based learning for undergraduate clinical neurology education. BMC Medical Education, 11:91.doi:10.1186/147269201191

Author Info:

Liang, Jen-Kai (Steven Liang)
Doctor of Engineering from Department of Computer Science & Information Engineering, National Central University; founder and senior vice president of technological R&D at HABOOK Information Technology. His team, in collaboration with academic institutions including National Central University, developed excellent products of educational technology, positioning themselves as a pioneer in the development of educational technology products in Taiwan. Dr. Liang has a background in education and experience in teaching. In addition to education, he is experienced in software and hardware development, with specialties and patents in fields of RF radio frequency technology, educational evaluation, statistics, and analytical theory and practice. He was a researcher of highly interactive classroom for the “Learning Technology Enhancement Program” at the Ministry of Education, teacher at National Taipei University of Education Experimental Elementary School, adjunct instructor at National Central University, and general manager at AClass Learning Technology. He also wrote over one hundred books on computer technology.
Chang, I-Hua (Eric Chang)
Doctor of educational leadership and policy analysis and master of information science and learning technology from University of Missouri–Columbia. His specialties include principal technology leadership and management, smart classroom and innovation diffusion, principal in data-driven decision making, and teacher academic optimism and influences. His works include School Technology Leadership and Management, Smarter Education: Vision & Practice,and over one hundred papers in local and international journals and seminars (inducing SSCI and TSSCI). Dr. Chang is currently a full-time professor at National Chengchi University Department of Education and director at Taiwan Technology Leadership and Instructional Technology Development Association.
Wu Chuan-Wei (Power Wu)
Founder and chairman of HABOOK Information Technology. He specializes in educational technology and educational system development. He founded the international “TEAM Model” smarter classroom brand and system with which he successfully established large-scale smart education experimental model schools and smart education model school districts. His practical and academic experience of over 20 years in elementary school and normal university has resulted in works including "Smarter Education: Vision & Practice" and over one hundred books on computer and information. He is passionate for education and aims at helping teachers realize their ideals and create new possibilities for education. Professor Wu is currently an executive director at Taiwan Technology Leadership and Instructional Technology Development Association, secretary-general at Smarter Education District Alliance, and visiting professor at Beijing Institute of Education and Chengdu Normal University.

Further Reading

A good teaching model needs to be quickly copied and diffused. The best way to achieve this is a “TEAM Model TBL” seminar that includes public lecture and demonstration, expert keynote and instruction, and workshop for experience sharing and practice. Download the TBL Teaching Enhancement Seminar Program for reference.