Team-Based Learning in an Industrial/Organizational Psychology Course

By Haberyan, April | North American Journal of Psychology, March 2007 | Go to article overview

Team-Based Learning in an Industrial/Organizational Psychology Course


Haberyan, April, North American Journal of Psychology


A team-based learning approach used in an undergraduate Industrial/Organizational Psychology course required students to develop their own company using industrial/organizational psychological principles. The course structure as well as a pretest/posttest evaluation of student knowledge and perceptions is discussed. The results indicate that students found the team-based learning approach both educational and enjoyable. Suggestions for using team-based learning in other psychology courses is provided.

Team-based learning has improved educational outcomes in science, education, business, and medical education courses (Haidet, O'Malley, & Richards, 2002; Michaelsen, Knight, & Fink, 2003; Seidel & Richards, 2001). As an instructional method, team-based learning (TBL) enhances students' communication skills, group interaction skills, and comprehension of complex course concepts (White, 1998). Furthermore, employers identify communication skills and social skills as the most desirable skills for job applicants (Appleby, 2000). Using team-based learning in an I/O course provides students with an opportunity to apply course concepts and practice communication and social skills in a low threat environment.

Team-based learning refers to an instructional strategy where students work together in teams on a three-part sequenced set of learning activities (Michaelsen, Knight, & Fink, 2004). The sequenced set of learning activities consists of a preparation phase, an application phase, and an assessment phase (Michaelsen et al., 2004).

In the preparation phase, students complete the reading assignments for the unit before the topics are discussed in class (Michaelsen et al). The goal is for students to have an introduction to the material before coming to class. On the first day of the new unit the students take a readiness assessment test individually and then in groups. The exams are graded in class and the teacher provides instruction on the concepts the students were not able to understand on their own. At the end of this phase the students have a more thorough understanding of the material and are ready for the application phase.

During the application phase, student groups apply the course content to help them make predictions, solve problems, or create explanations for increasingly complex problems (Michaelsen et al, 2004). Each group shares their solutions for the activities with the entire class and the instructor provides feedback about the quality of their responses. At the end of this phase groups are more cohesive, committed to team success, and have learned how to apply the course content to real life problems.

The final phase is the assessment phase (Michaelsen et al, 2004). Groups are asked to solve one more application activity to demonstrate their mastery of the material. The responses are evaluated by the instructor and the score is incorporated into each student's course grade.

Unlike cooperative learning, where group activities are used within a pre-existing course structure (Johnson, Johnson, & Smith, 1991; Millis, & Cottell, 1998; Slavin, 1996), TBL requires the instructor to reconfigure the entire course. One unique advantage however, is that TBL allows one instructor to facilitate effective small group learning in a large classroom setting. (e.g. up to 200:1 student faculty ratio) (Levine, O'Boyle, Haidet, Lynn, Stone, Wolf, & Paniagua, 2004).

According to McKeachie (1999) "there is a wealth of evidence that peer learning and teaching is extremely effective for a wide range of goals, content, and students of different levels and personalities" (p. 159). For example peer learning helps both high achieving and low achieving students perform better in the classroom, enhances retention of course information, promotes higher order reasoning, and enhances social support within the classroom (Gabbert, Johnson & Johnson, 1986; Johnson, Johnson & Lee, 1985; Johnson, Johnson, & Taylor, 1993; Mesch, Johnson, & Johnson, 1988; O'Donnell, Dansereau, Rocklin, Hythecker, Lambiotte, Larson & Young 1985; Vasquez, Johnson & Johnson, 1993).

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