Team Based Learning and Collaborative Teaching

Ashley Carruthers, School of Archaeology & Anthropology

In this presentation I want to talk about a couple of assessment structures I’ve used in my teaching that are quite different to the usual. The first is based on an adaptation of the standard Team Based Learning model – one which originated in business schools, and has become popular in recent years in teaching medicine.

This approach is big on weekly testing of student preparation by the expedient of multiple choice and short answer quizzes. It’s also designed to encourage (indeed, enforce) peer learning and help students develop interpersonal skills. As the class unfolds, the more mechanical quiz tasks are succeeded by interpretive tasks where students have to apply concepts and theories learnt in the readings to a real world case study, thus producing a novel analysis.

When initially researching TBL, I was dubious about whether multiple choice quizzes would be useful for teaching the “soft” social sciences and humanities, and suspected that students wouldn’t be likely to put up with being quizzed on their readings every week. I did however like the way TBL promised to allow me to handle large classes on my own, so tried it out. After 5 years of experience with this, I can confirm that TBL in Anthropology at ANU has proven consistently popular among students based on evaluations; and that in my opinion it delivers pedagogic results that are certainly no worse than traditional methods, and quite possibly better.

The second assessment model I want to talk about is one that several of us in Anthropology have developed in the context of turning one of my single-lecturer TBL courses into a collaboratively taught one. We’ve kept the principle of weekly assessments based on close testing of lecture and reading content, but dispensed with quizzes in favour of 500 word “response essays”. This approach ensures that students need to put in a consistent weekly effort throughout the course. The reward is that there are no big assessment items hanging over their heads at mid and end of semester.

From a staff point of view, it means that teaching and marking are contained within weekly blocks, allowing us to share these tasks equitably and efficiently. It also allows staff to design weeks reflecting their own diverse interests, but at the same time presenting a consistent experience to students in terms of delivery and assessment. We have also developed a detailed rubric and feedback sheet in an attempt to streamline marking, and encourage consistency of marking among teaching staff.

speaker bio

Ashley Carruthers teaches the anthropology of globalisation and migration in the School of Archaeology and Anthropology, CASS. He pioneered the ANU’s Vietnam Field School in collaboration with colleagues from the Fenner School, CoS, and was involved in teaching in this interdisciplinary, cross college program for some 15 years. The Vietnam Field school was awarded several New Colombo Plan grants, totalling hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships for ANU students. His experiences teaching in the field have inspired him to pursue team and problem based approaches to teaching students how to critically analyse real-world problems in the classroom.


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One response to “Team Based Learning and Collaborative Teaching”

  1. Madonna Barton Avatar

    Your passion for your niche is evident.

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