Inspiring Student Engagement with Team-Based Learning

In 2016, Professor Christine Jarvis, the Pro Vice-Chancellor Teaching and Learning made funds available for teaching and learning development projects that could make an impact on teaching, learning and assessment. As a result, the seven schools at the University of Huddersfield are running a number of projects and we are sharing some of the project progress and outcomes here on the Teaching and Learning Institute blog.

In the School of Human and Health Sciences they are running a project to implement Team-Based Learning (TBL) within their inter-professional research modules. In this post, Dr Christine Dearnley talks about the work involved in implementing TBL and how students have been recruited to act as ‘change agents’ liaising between students and staff in the development, implementation and evaluation of the project.

Developing engaging learning processes
There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that traditional approaches to delivering Higher Education are no longer appropriate for the students we have and the outcomes we require and expect of them. Students are increasingly ‘tuned into’ social media with its immediacy, vibrancy, colours and tunes; not to mention the social and collaborative influences on their decision making and life choices. In contrast, traditional approaches to learning and teaching, such as lectures and solitary reading and thinking processes, lack the appeal of these new rivals and frequently fail to engage students at level required for substantive learning.

Similarly, the expectations of the learning processes in terms of the graduates who exit from our courses has also changed. We need and expect our graduates to be equipped with the skills of independent thinking, to be confident in their own abilities for problem solving and leading change. The challenge for educators of health care students is therefore to deliver a curriculum in which our students can thrive, to create an environment that nurtures confidence and growth and respects individuality and diversity. Students must learn to hear their own voices and know what they know.

The transformational impact of team-based learning 
Against this background there is a tentative, though growing body of evidence to support team-based learning (TBL) as a transformative teaching and learning strategy that can impact on student engagement, student satisfaction, attainment and practice development. TBL is an instructional strategy that is increasingly being used in medical and pharmacy education; there are also reports in the literature of successful use in education for other health care professions, such as midwifery, nursing and optometry.

In the School of Human and Health Sciences we are therefore running a project to implement TBL within our inter-professional research modules. These modules are studied by students on all our undergraduate health care courses, learning together so that they can work together more effectively in professional practice. This means that over 800 students will be involved in this transformational learning project, they include 1st and 2nd year students from the following courses: BSc (Hons) Podiatry; BSc (Hons) Physiotherapy; BSc (Hons) Occupational Therapy; BSc (Hons) Midwifery Studies; BSc (Hons) Nursing & BSc (Hons) Operating Department Practice.Diagram showing the three step cycle of team-based learning

TBL is a collaborative learning and teaching strategy designed around units of instruction that are taught in a three-step cycle: preparation (individual study), readiness assurance testing (multiple choice questions to check on knowledge and understanding – both individually and in then in teams) followed by team activities that support application of new knowledge and concepts to real life practice scenarios. To date, almost 40 staff from within the school have been engaged in workshops to inform them about the TBL processes and how to develop the required materials and deliver them using this very clearly defined and structured process. The project has included the recruitment of student consultants to act as ‘change agents’. Their role is to bring the student voice to the proposed changes and to liaise between students and staff in the development, implementation and evaluation of the project. Student change agents provide additional capacity and insights into the student experience, which is often greatly different from that of staff. Their role is flexible and evolving as the project progresses; ensuring that opportunities for a variety of skills to develop are optimised.

The project has presented challenges as expected with any large scale transformation. Yet there is an air of optimism among staff and student consultants that this will make a difference to the student experience. Some staff have commented on this being the most exciting element of their jobs at the moment and student consultants have commented that this is going to be “so much better.” There is still much to do, but we are making good progress and all being well we will be using TBL to deliver these modules with effect from 2017. Wish us luck!

Posted by Kathrine Jensen, Research Assistant, Teaching and Learning Institute (TALI). The Teaching and Learning Institute coordinates, evaluates and disseminates inspiring and innovative teaching and learning. Follow TALI on Twitter


About talintuoh

Supporting and connecting colleagues to develop inspiring and innovative teaching and learning
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