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Nov 27, 2020 2 min read

The 4 Principles Of Team-Based Learning

As we’ve seen in our post on The Team-Based Learning Process (TBL), TBL consists of a specific process, from pre-work to peer evaluation, however, simply following this process is not enough to have a successful Team-Based Learning class. To really ensure that you’re helping students make a shift from understanding to applying concepts that’ll be useful for them in their professional lives, one must adhere to the 4 principles of TBL.

1. Properly formed & managed groups

2. Accountability

3. Immediate feedback

4. Team development

Principle 1: Groups must be properly formed and managed

In order to make sure that a group has been properly formed 3 things are necessary:

1. Groups should be as diverse as possible in terms of backgrounds, previous courses taken, nationalities, interests etc. This helps in bringing novel perspectives which translates into better-performing groups.

2. Coalitions should be avoided. Coalitions are usually created by a few team members sharing the same ethnicity, language, background, or simply being close friends from before. This can hinder the cohesion of a team as a whole in the long-run.

3. Students should stay on the same team throughout the term. This is to give time for groups to develop into high performing teams.

Principle 2: Student accountability for individual and group work

Given the interdependent nature of Team-Based Learning for students, it is important to ensure that students are not only accountable to the instructor but also to their teammates. Furthermore, groups should also be accountable as a unit.

When it comes to individual accountability, it is the Readiness Assurance Process (RAP) which is meant to ensure that students prepare before the class. The rationale for this is that in order for them and their teammates to have a fruitful discussion session, students need to come to the class prepared. Otherwise, any discussion that takes place during the class will be of no use. Moreover, coming unprepared also threatens group cohesion as other team members might resent those who did not come prepared.

Team accountability is assured through peer evaluation. Only students have enough information to be able to judge their peers’ participation. This is one of the many benefits of peer evaluation. If you are interested, you can learn more about the topic by reading our post on The Benefits Of Peer Evaluation In Team-Based Learning.

Principle 3: Frequent and immediate feedback

Feedback is vital for the whole of Team-Based Learning. It is particularly important for improving content retention. It can take place at several stages of the TBL process such as after the TRAT or after the peer evaluation. The latter has an added benefit which is to not only to help students learn the class content but also to learn how to improve as a team member.

Principle 4: Assignments that promote both learning and team development

It is imperative to design activities and assignments that require team interaction. Application activities are useful for achieving this as they allow students to apply the learned concepts to solve complex problems. It is best practice to create activities that allow students to make a decision as this usually promotes discussion.


Having these 4 principles in mind when conducting a Team-Based Learning session will allow you to help your students become increasingly capable of not only understanding the new concepts you are trying to communicate but also of being able to apply them in different contexts which will be immensely useful for them in their future careers.

Let’s recap the benefits of the 4 Team-Based Learning principles:

-Forming groups well: prevents mistrust and contributes to cohesion

-Student accountability: promotes contribution and team cohesion

-Frequent and immediate feedback: promotes learning and retention

-Assignments that promote team development: promotes learning and soft skill development


1. Michaelsen, Larry. Sweet, Michael. (2008). Team-Based Learning: Small Group Learning’s Next Big Step. New Directions For Teaching & Learning.

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