Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Theological Study and Team-Based Learning

Following our interesting series on Creativity in Theological Education, Dr Alex Tang, Consultant Paediatrician at Johor Specialist Hospital in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, who also serves as Director of the Spiritual Formation Institute and Director of Kairos Spiritual Formation Ministries is raising questions about the worth of Team-Based Learning (TBL) as a pedagogy in theological education. His summary of TBL:


TBL
Team learning or team-based learning (TBL) is a well-defined instructional strategy developed by Dr. Larry K. Michaelsen that is now being used successfully in medical education.

The TBL method allows a single instructor to teach through conducting multiple small groups simultaneously in the same classroom.

Learners must actively participate in and out of class through preparation and group discussion. Class time is shifted away from learning facts and toward application and integration of information. The instructor retains control of content, and acts as both facilitator and content expert. The team learning method affords the opportunity for assessment of both individual and team performance.


As an instructional method, team learning consists of repeating sequences of 3 phases:

In Phase 1, learners study independently outside of class to master identified objectives.

In Phase 2, individual learners complete a multiple-choice exam to assure their readiness to apply Phase 1 knowledge. Groups of 6-7 learners then re-take this exam and turn in their consensus answers for immediate scoring and posting.

In Phase 3, which may last several class periods, groups complete in-class assignments that promote collaboration, use of Phase 1 and 2 knowledge, and identification of learning deficiencies. At designated times, all groups simultaneously share their groups' answers with the entire class for easy comparison and immediate feedback. This stimulates an energetic total-class discussion with groups defending their answers and the teacher helping to consolidate learning.

TBL stresses the importance of a priori, out-of-class learning based on clear learning objectives. It emphasizes the importance of holding learners accountable for attending class prepared to participate, and provides guidelines for designing group learning tasks to maximize participation.
TBL emphasizes three keys to effective active learning:
* Individual and group accountability
* Need and opportunity for group interaction
* Motivation to engage in give-and-take discussion.



In medical education, team learning has been successfully used in preclinical, clinical, residency, fellowship, and CME venues and in interdisciplinary settings.

Two useful articles on TBL
Three Keys to Using Learning Groups Effectively
Team Learning: Putting sTEAM into Learning Groups

TBL, Theological Education and TBL
Have any in theological education directly applied TBL practice or anything like this? Any comments on its value and drawbacks as applied to theological education.

Thanks Alex for asking the question and raising the matter.

Dr Geoff Pound


Image: Dr. Larry K. Michaelsen