Review of: Team-based learning: The importance of attendance

Jakobsen, K.V., Marrs, S., & McIlreavy, M. (2014). Team-based learning: The importance of attendance. Psychology Learning & Teaching 13(1), 25-31. doi: 10.2304/plat.2014.13.1.25

In this research article, the authors examined previous findings that student performance (such as on examinations) is higher in team-based learning (TBL) classrooms as compared to normal lecture classrooms. They measured this by allowing a group of students (N=90) to self-select to one of two groups: the lecture group and the TBL group. These two classes were taught by, and assignments were graded by, the same professor, with extensive emphasis placed on controlling grading bias. The findings were that the TBL group scored significantly higher on exams and had much higher rates of class attendance. The higher attendance rate should not come as any surprise, since in TBL classrooms students are held more accountable for their attendance whereas in normal lecture classrooms, students often have more freedom to miss class at their own leisure without adverse resultant consequences (as was the case during this experiment).

The researchers then decided to control for attendance, since this could have been a confounding variable and could also have been the main reason for higher test scores, not the TBL environment itself. When attendance was controlled for, there was actually no significant difference between the test scores of the two groups. However, the authors concluded that there are many benefits to team-based learning classrooms, such as more time for students to discuss class material with their peers, as well as more time to use critical thinking to actively engage in course material. Additionally, the authors also concluded that the benefit of higher attendance levels is a very positive result, since the higher attendance rates lead to better understanding of subject material, which in turn leads to increased test scores and, theoretically, better subject mastery.

Having participated in TBL courses myself, I can attest to the heightened sense of responsibility for attending class when one knows that his/her teammates are counting on their presence. This, for me, led to higher attendance rates as well as better class preparation because I did not want to be the team member who had come to class unprepared. While personally I have nothing against normal lecture classes, I can definitely see the advantages to team-based learning classes that the authors mentioned, such as heightened attendance and increased time spent discussing and critically evaluating class material as compared to merely listening to an instructor deliver a lecture.

 

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