Students often struggle to remember concepts they just learned in class. They might only passively listen to the speaker and become disengaged in lecture-based classes. As educators, it is essential to guide your students to adopt effective learning strategies.
Team-based Learning (TBL) provides an active, structured form of small-group learning. TBL engages students in the learning process through various individual and team activities and discussions in the class. TBL follows the principles of learning sciences and thus, is very effective in improving learning retention among students.
Three learning science strategies that TBL promotes include the following:
1. Retrieval Practice
Retrieval practice is essentially the practice of intentionally remembering what you learned. This strategy enhances learning and long-term memory (Pastotter and Bauml, 2014).
Retrieval practice makes learning effortful and challenging. Since retrieving information requires mental effort, students often think they are not doing well if they struggle to remember something. However, this is when they learn most effectively. The more challenging the retrieval practice is, the better it is for long-term learning (Agarwal, Roediger, McDaniel, and McDermott, 2013).
In TBL, students complete their prework before attempting the Individual Readiness Assurance Test (IRAT) and Team Readiness Assurance Test (TRAT). When doing the IRAT, students will need to recall the information. Additionally, the TRAT consists of the same questions as the IRAT. When students attempt the TRAT and review the same questions again, they are more likely to remember the information. Students should also always receive feedback after retrieval practice so that they know whether they got the right or wrong answers. Receiving feedback is important for students’ learning so that they are aware of their mistakes and would not repeat them. In TBL, the TRAT also provides immediate feedback to students. Thus, TBL is ideal for promoting retrieval practice.
2. Depth of Processing
Students are able to recall words that are processed more deeply. The levels of processing model (Craik and Lockhart, 1972) focuses on the depth of processing involved in memory, and predicts that the deeper the information is processed, the longer a memory trace will last.
There are three stages in processing information - structural, phonemic, and semantic processing.
Shallow processing only involves maintenance rehearsal which leads to short-term retention of information.
There are two forms of shallow processing:
- Structural processing – occurs when we encode only the physical qualities of an object (e.g., the typeface of a word or the shapes of the letters).
- Phonemic processing – occurs when we encode the object’s sound.
Deep processing involves elaboration rehearsal which leads to long-term retention of information as it involves a more meaningful analysis of information (e.g., through images, thinking, association etc.)
- Semantic processing – occurs when we encode the meaning of a word and relate it to similar words with similar meaning.
Therefore, the way the information is encoded will affect how well it is remembered. The structure of TBL allows for deep processing to occur. As mentioned previously, IRAT and TRAT consist of the same questions – thus students are able to process the answers better. When students move to the applications exercises component, students are required to critically reflect and apply the knowledge that they acquired during the Readiness Assurance Process. Thus, the TBL structure allows students to learn better and improves their learning retention.
3. Use of Activities Employing Concrete Examples
The use of activities employing concrete examples is another learning science strategy that can create a powerful learning environment. The idea behind this strategy is using specific and concrete examples to increase understanding of abstract concepts. Human memory is designed to remember concrete information better than abstract information (Pavio, Walsh and Bons, 1994).
For example, “compassion” is an abstract idea. It can be described as sympathetic pity and concern for the misfortunes of others. To make this idea more concrete, one can use a specific example to illustrate the idea – a nurse who provides care towards her patients in a warm, sensitive, and understanding manner is filled with compassion.
Team-based Learning has an application activities component where students need to apply their knowledge to real world examples. Such activities allow students to increase their understanding of the knowledge and thus be able to learn more effectively.
Overall, it is important for educators to promote these learning strategies to students to ensure they can retain the knowledge that they have learnt. Implementing TBL has plenty of benefits for both educators and students too. To learn more, feel free to book a demo with us here.