Yale Center for Teaching and Learning

Team-Based Learning

Team-based learning (TBL) is a pedagogical strategy that engages student knowledge through individual testing and group collaboration. Following individual answers, students join teams and work through problems, appealing when they are incorrect. This process motivates students by holding them accountable to themselves and one another, while introducing them to a variety of thought processes devoted to a single problem. To increase motivation and introduce a fun gaming environment, instructors often group their students into teams and have them compete on various classroom learning tasks.

The strategy is flexible enough to be implemented in classes of varying sizes including large lecture courses, and students have reported growing in their creative thinking and oral communication through TBL (Huggins, et. al, 2015); a formalized version of the strategy can be found at the Team-based Learning Collaborative.


Team-based learning typically follows a set procedure (adapted from the Team Based Learning Collaborative): 

  1. Students complete pre-class readings and/or other assignments. 
  2. At the beginning of class, students complete an Individual Readiness Assurance Test (iRAT) to measure what they learned from their pre-class assignments. This test follows a short multiple choice format using questions that fall on the lower level of Bloom’s Taxonomy. The goal of this assessment is to hold students accountable for the material. 
  3. After completing this assessment, students join with their team and complete a Team Readiness Assurance Test (tRAT) using a special scratch-off form called an Immediate Feedback Assessment (IF-AT) form. When the team scratches off the correct answer they will see a star. If they scratch off an incorrect answer, they continue discussing until they have the right answer. Instructors may also consider designing conventional mini-quizzes on paper instead of using the IF-AT forms. In this case, instructors will need to provide the solutions after students respond.  
  4. Students next have the chance to appeal any questions they answered incorrectly.
  5. The instructor provides a mini-lecture on areas where the students are still having trouble. 
  6. Students engage with activities that apply and extend knowledge gained. Through their experiences with teamwork and knowledge gained through collaboration, the benefits of collaborative work during TBL can extend beyond the classroom.


  • Read About TBL - Instructors can review the Getting Started with TBL guide as an orientation to implementing this pedagogical strategy in the classroom.  
  • Build Effective Teams - Instructors can consider forming permanent teams based upon characteristics that seem particularly important. Effective teams typically include a diverse range of personalities, beliefs, and backgrounds, thereby joining peers with different characteristics and viewpoints.   
  • Use Small Teams - When possible, teams of 4-6 students are small enough to encourage individual contribution without minimizing or overpopulating diversity of perspectives.
  • Synchronize Teams - Instructors can consider designing iRAT activities so that all teams work on the same problem, need to make a specific choice, and report their choices simultaneously. In this way, groups can hear the reasoning of other teams on the same topic. 
  • Hold Assessments - Instructors can integrate mid- and end- peer evaluations of teammates into TBL. These assessments can keep students motivated and accountable by supplying anonymous feedback and encouraging the functioning of the team.


Huggins, C., and Stamatel, J. (2015). An Exploratory Study Comparing the Effectiveness of Lecturing versus Team-based Learning. Teaching Sociology 43.3: 227-235.

Michaelsen, L.K., Knight, A.B., & Fink, L.D (Eds). (2004). Team-Based Learning: A transformative Use of Small Groups in College Teaching. Stylus Publishing, LLC. Sterling, VA. Team Based Learning Collaborative