Enhancing Career Skill Education & Advising Using Team-Based Learning

On August 15th, we conducted a workshop at Yale-NUS College's Professional Development Symposium on how to apply active learning techniques to career advising and teaching in high schools.

The audience comprised of educators at high schools, junior colleges and polytechnics in Singapore who advise students on careers and higher education and were keen to learn about various pedagogies they could use to better prepare their students for life after high school.

Team-Based Learning, which is a form of active learning popularly used across medical schools, is increasingly finding its way into other domains such as corporate training, government training and other areas of higher education. In our workshop we took participants through an experiential session about how they could apply team-based learning to career advising.

What is Team-Based Learning?

Team-Based Learning is a very structured form of blended learning or flipped classroom involving 5 key steps:

  1. Pre-work: Pre-work refers to the material students receive to read, listen or watch before the class. The idea is that they should arrive at the class knowing the material so that they can put it into practice during the class.

  2. Individual Readiness Assurance Test (IRAT): The IRAT or Individual Readiness Assurance Test is the first thing students do when they arrive at the class. It consists of a set of multiple-choice questions which test students on their knowledge of the pre-work. Its main purpose is to ensure students do the pre-work and come prepared to the class.

  3. Team Readiness Assurance Test (TRAT): The TRAT or Team Readiness Assurance Test follows the IRAT and consists on the same set of questions as the IRAT. However, the main difference is that this time students take the test in teams. Students get to discuss with their peers what they think the correct answer is and are required to answer each multiple-choice question until they arrive at the right answer. This provides students with immediate feedback on their answer. Equally important, however, is that students get to develop valuable soft skills like teamwork or communication through discussion.

  4. Clarification Session: Once students are done with the application cases, they can request clarification on any concepts that haven’t been grasped or questions that haven’t understood. One technique is to ask teams that claim to have understood a question to explain the answer to a team that hasn’t understood. This usually encourages teams and individuals to communicate their misunderstanding.

  5. Application Exercises: Subsequently, students take application cases where the main purpose is to put into practice what they’ve learned in the previous steps. Application cases consist of multiple choice questions designed for students to make a decision on a specific real-life problem. This stage is particularly important for further developing collaborative soft skills and taking the class closer to real workplace problems students will encounter in the future.

Source: Brian O’Dwyer, Flipped Classroom Approach Forum, Hong Kong, December 8, 2017

Applying Team-Based Learning to Career Advising and Teaching

Using Team-Based Learning techniques, career advisors can significantly enhance their students' ability to plan a career strategy, create better resumes and develop their interview skills.

For example, the Team-Based Learning pedagogy allows educators to put students in the shoes of employers who have been tasked with the goal of finding the best talent. Students then work in teams to browse resumes, filter the resumes and then shortlist candidates they would like to review. Going through such an exercise helps students understand the exact position employers are in when vetting job applications - pressed for time, overwhelmed with a large number of applications and compelled to accommodate perspectives of multiple colleagues while selecting resumes to shortlist for interviews. A few more examples that career advisors and college admission counsellors can use during a team-based learning workshop can be found in a condensed version of our workshop slides here:

Career Planning is a Team Sport!

More so, students realize that they spot more areas of improvements when looking at a resume as a team than as individuals, enabling them to realize that career planning is a team sport! Seeking help from friends on their resumes, mock interviews and networking are all key to successful career planning.

Scalability across the Student Body

Another benefit of using the Team-Based Learning approach over one on one advising or other kinds of workshops is its scalable nature. Following the Team-Based Learning format allows educators to create a learning environment where students are self-learning and learning from peers. This allows educators to conduct such workshops at scale without having to pay individual attention to every student in the room.

Keeping students engaged is key

Career events are often held in the evening after a long day of classes, leading to low engagement and attention from students. Many of them may not necessarily see the importance of career education if they aren’t actively job hunting, which is why keeping students engaged can be difficult. In a Team-Based Learning class, students are required to be active participants in the learning process, which is why engagement rates are visibly much higher as students work with their teams to arrive at solutions together.

Do students see value in a Team-Based Learning Approach to Career Education?

A year ago, we conducted a career skills workshop for Yale-NUS students in a Team-Based Learning format. The workshop had a 100% recommendation rate and 97% of the students who attended said that their objectives were met by attending the workshop. In a feedback survey sent to students after the workshop, students reported finding the workshop “practical”, “interactive” and “valuable”. One particular student wrote that the workshop was “very fun” and that “interest was never lost”.

A word cloud from student comments about a career skill workshop conducted in a Team-Based Learning format

Participants of the workshop we conducted for counsellors also responded very positively, finding the Team-Based Learning Approach to be highly relevant to their work. Several of them mentioned experiencing the higher engagement and greater retention rate at the workshop which was itself help in a Team-Based Learning format.

As educators, it is important to not just deliver effective content to students, but to also be mindful about the mode of delivery in order to ensure maximum retention and applicability of the content. Team-Based Learning is a form of Active Learning that ensures high retention and applicability. We hope to see more career skills educators using this approach in the future.

Keen to consider team-based learning for career advising? We would be happy to conduct a workshop or a one on one session to help you with curriculum development. Reach out to brian@intedashboard.com to start the conversation.