Team-Based Learning

Team-Based Learning Faculty Learning Community

Team-Based Learning™ (TBL) is a highly interactive, results-based educational strategy developed in the business school environment which has spread to other academic disciplines over the last decade. TBL can be used in classes as large as 200 and as small as 12. It transforms instruction into active learning and promotes the development of professional competencies in interpersonal skills, teamwork and peer feedback. TBL does not require a multitude of faculty to facilitate small groups and it can either replace or supplement traditional lectures. CAFE has co-sponsored two TBL Institutes in recent years and is training faculty to become TBL trainers at UAA.  The TBL FLC supports faculty to explore ways to integrate this engaging teaching strategy into a wide variety of courses.

  • Sociogram of Group/Team Interaction

    Today you will serve your group/team in the role of observer. Once your group is settled and ready to begin the day’s discussion or activity, use the attached sheet to draw a simple diagram of your group/team’s seating arrangement. Do not attempt to change or influence anyone’s location, just draw a simple diagram that reflects the spacing of the desks/chairs in as accurate a way as possible. Include the names of group members. If members of your group/team have specific designated roles (leader, secretary, data recorder, etc.), indicate that, too.

    As the discussion or activity proceeds, you, as observer, should draw vectors (arrowed lines) between group members to illustrate when one member speaks to another. Use the symbol guide below on the left. Start the line when the first person speaks. If the person responds, complete the arrowed line going back in the other direction. In other words, each time someone offers a comment/statement/question, draw a new line, adding arrow points to indicate direction (see illustration below). Discussions may involve quite a bit of back and forth and sometimes move quickly: do not panic if things are moving quickly and you accidentally miss a comment. Just try to keep up and record the interactions as best you can as the discussion or activity moves along. You will be developing a sociogram that tracks or illustrates the pathways of your group interactions. Although each discussion looks different, yours might look something like the one depicted below.

    Student names in bubbles shown interacting with line arrows 

    At the end of the activity, your professor will provide time for metacommunication (communication about communication) and reflection.  As the group’s observer, you will be given a couple of minutes (2-3?) to review the sociogram you recorded. What does it say about your group or team interactions? Share the sociogram with the group, offering your observations and perceptions about the group’s communication during this session. Remember to reflect on the communication dynamics, not the topic of the assignment. The categories below might help guide your analysis.



    • What did you notice or observe about levels or patterns of participation in your group/team?
      • Who participated the most?
      • Who participated the least? If someone wasn’t very talkative, they might have been engaged. In that case, you might reflect on their nonverbal communication (see below).
      • Did the patterns of participation support your work? Were the patterns problematic in some way?
      • What would you change? What would you maintain regarding patterns of participation?


    • Evaluate the types of comments offered during discussion.
      • Who advanced ideas? Who spoke in support of ideas? Who critiqued ideas?
      • Who asked questions? Who requested clarification? Who spoke in support of other group members?
      • What role did various types of comments play in accomplishing your work?
      • What role did these comments play in supporting the group or individuals in the group?


    • Reflect on the verbal communication in the group. What did you notice about the words you were using, the linguistic dimension of your group communication?
    • Were there terms that were new to you? If so, did people ask for clarification or offer explanation?
    • Was there ambiguity in the language being used? What did communicators do (or not) to clarify meaning when terms were ambiguous and open to interpretation?
    • Was there technical, discipline-specific jargon, or acronyms that might have been unfamiliar? Did that make a difference in who spoke more or less?


    • Reflect on the nonverbal communication in the group. What did you notice about the non-linguistic dimensions of your communication?
    • Think about the setting where your discussion/activity took place. How did the positioning of semi-fixed features (i.e. movable things like desks, tables, and chairs) influence your interaction? What changes could you easily enact in your group to improve your use of the space where you are doing your work?
    • How did the positioning or presence of fixed features (i.e. structural or architectural elements like doors, windows, built-in tables, wall-mounted screens or whiteboards) influence where you positioned yourselves? What can you do to maintain access to what you need (i.e. seeing a screen at the front of the room?) while still engaging with your group/team?
    • Think about the nonverbal behaviors of members of the group. What did you notice about facial expressions, eye contact, gestures, body positions, facial expression, etc., that seemed to indicate engagement or interest? Nonverbal behaviors are variable based on gender, culture, and more, so there isn’t one single set of nonverbal behaviors that is the “correct” one. How would you want others in the group to know (based on your nonverbals) that you are engaged, listening attentively, would like to speak, etc.?



    • Reflect on your individual communication behaviors during today’s activity. In what ways did they help or hinder the completion of the work set before you? Is there something you would like other group members to know about how you work in groups?
    • Identify the most positive communication dynamic or strength that you saw in today’s activity. What can you or members of the group do to support that behavior in the future?
    • Identify the most challenging communication dynamic based on what you saw in today’s activity. What can you or other group members do to change that for future activities? (If your group was perfect and faced no challenges today, identify a communication challenge from work in a previous group. What will you do to ensure that challenge doesn’t happen in this group?)

    Sociogram of Group/Team Interaction                                                  Your name ___________________________

What is Team-Based Learning (TBL)?

Introduction to Team Based Learning

TBL Books

TBL Course Module Help

TBL Online Resources

UAA TBL Faculty Learning Community

UAA Faculty who are TBL Resources

What is Team-Based Learning (TBL)?

TBL: Group Work That Works(Video)

TBL TeamLEAD Program(Video)


TBL in the School of Pharmacy (Video)

Virginia Commonwealth University

Enhancing Professional Education with TBL(PDF) – Jim Sibley and Dean X. Parmelee MD (avail on web)

The Essential Elements of Team-Based Learning (PDF) -Larry K. Michaelsen and Michael Sweet (avail on web)

Introduction to TBL(PDF)- Jim Sibley and Sophie Spiridonoff 

What is TBL and Why it works(PDF) - Jim Sibley and Sophie Spiridonoff (link iTunesU)

Team-Based Learning Books:

Getting Started with Team-Based Learning (2014) by Jim Sibley, et. al.

Team-Based Learning:  A Transformative Use of Small Groups in College Teaching (2004) by Michaelsen, Knight, and Fink, Eds.

Team-Based Learning:  Small Group Learning’s Next Big Step (2008) by Michaelsen, Sweet, and Parmelee, Eds. – Library: LB 1032 .T39 2008

Team-Based Learning for Health Professions Education:  A Guide to Using Small Groups for Improving Learning (2008) by Michaelsen, Parmelee, McMahon, and Levine, Eds.

Team-Based Learning in the Social Sciences and Humanities:  Group Work that Works to Generate Critical Thinking and Engagement (2012) by Michael Sweet and Larry Michaelsen, Eds.

Test Better Teach Better:  The Instructional Role of Assessment [electronic resource] (2003) by James W. Popham – Library: LP 3051.P61422 2003

TBL Course Module Help:

Designing A TBL Module: A Working Template for Faculty (PDF) - Paul G. Koles, MD, B. Laurel Elder PhD and Dean X. Parmelee MD (Link iTunesU)

Improving Your Questions Using Item Analysis  (PDF) – Jim Sibley (Link iTunesU)

TBL Course Design (PDF) - Adapted from “Getting your Course Ready,” by Bill Roberson and Billie Franchini, 2014, In Getting Started with Team-Based Learning eds. Jim Sibley and Pete Ostafichuk (Link iTunesU)

Writing Good Multiple Choice Questions (PDF) – Jim Sibley (Link iTunesU)

Writing Multiple Choice Questions for Continuing Medical Education Activities & Self-Assessment Modules (PDF) – Jannette Collins, MD, MEd

TBL Online Resources:

Team-Based Learning Collaborative - ( ) UAA has an institutional membership to this collaborative 

TBLC Listserv- ( The TBLC maintains a listserv where practitioners post questions and get help. It is possible to subscribe to the list without being a member of the TBLC. Please note that the list is fairly active at times, so it is wise to set it to digest

Learn TBL - This website at the University of British Columbia has lots of good information.  Jim Sibley is the author of the new "Getting Started with Team-Based Learning" book. 

TBLC Membership - UAA has an institutional membership to TBLC, which provides: member rates for TBLC events (including annual conference) and access to the members only section of the website with valuable TBL cases, modules and workshop materials.  Contact Liisa Morrison in CAFE to be added to the UAA member list.

UAA TBL Listserv - Contact Shawnalee Whitney to be added to this list

UAA TBL Faculty Learning Community:

If you are actively implementing Team-Based Learning into a course you are welcome to join this group.  The focus is to brainstorm issues, share ideas, and support each other as we learn more about this valuable pedagogy.  The community of practice meets approximately once a month.  

Contact Shawnalee Whitney concerning the Faculty Learning Community.


Sandra Ehrlich - Management & Marketing CBPP* (786-4165)

Tim Hinterberger- WWAMI School of Medical Education; (786-6432) 

Cindy Knall - WWAMI School of Medicine; (786-1376)

Tom McRoberts - Social Work/ Child Welfare Academy; (786-6704)

Shawnalee Whitney - Director, Center for Advancing Faculty Excellence; (786-4645) 

*Dr. Sandra Ehrlich is the only nationally certified TBL Trainer in the state of Alaska. We are thrilled to have her supporting faculty development as the CAFE Faculty Associate for Collaborative Learning. She supports faculty learning in TBL, other flipped classroom methods, and collaborative learning, a recognized High Impact Practice.