judith ainsworth

Putting Teamwork to the Test

Team-Based Learning is a popular pedagogy in the health sciences field, but few studies have revealed if the innovative teaching method would be effective in business education.

Dr. Judith Ainsworth, a Lecturer in Management Communications, decided to find out for herself.

Dr. Ainsworth, supported by a $2,500 grant from the Team-Based Learning Collaborative—a non-profit organization that encourages Team-Based Learning—implemented the approach into her Professional Writing for Accountants course last summer. She measured student accountability, preparedness, and engagement through the use of surveys, interviews, and other assessment instruments. The results were encouraging:

  • 5% of students felt accountable not only to themselves, but also to their team.
  • 95% of students were satisfied with the course.
  • 5% of students had an average individual Readiness Assurance Test score of 7/10 or higher indicating preparedness.
  • Four of five teams had team Readiness Assurance Test scores above 90% indicating engagement.

Team-Based Learning is rooted in three major principles—Preparation (students complete readings before class), Reader Assessment Tests (students are tested individually and in teams on those readings), and In-Class Exercises. Instead of devoting class time to lectures about core concepts, Team-Based Learning empowers groups of students to put those concepts to work in problem-solving exercises.

Team-Based Learning first came to prominence in the late 1970s with Dr. Larry Michaelsen, then a management professor at the University of Oklahoma. One of Michaelsen’s classes had tripled in size (40 to 120 students), and he questioned whether his case-based Socratic teaching approach—which involves problem-solving discussions among students—would still be effective. Many of today’s Team-Based Learning’s principles are rooted in Michaelsen’s solutions.

Dr. Ainsworth said a key to her success with Team-Based Learning has been the support she’s received at UF. Warrington’s Teaching & Learning Center provided her with the resources to implement the approach, and a Team-Based Learning Bootcamp at UF’s College of Medicine reinforced best practices.