A short history

(Paraphrased from Jim Sibley’s book Getting Started with Team-Based Learning, p. 7)

In 1979, Larry Michaelsen found that his class size had been tripled from 40 to 120 students. He had been using a case-based Socratic teaching approach that involves facilitating problem-solving discussions. He knew that he had two major challenges; the first was to engage a large class in effective problem-solving, and the second was to give his students a reason to prepare before the class session.

He developed an approach that is very close to the structure that TBL classrooms use today.

He made sure that students came prepared by using an ingenious approach where students were first tested individually, and then in teams. He realized that students were actively discussing the material, which otherwise would have been covered in a lecture, and he devised the “4 S” framework for classroom activities where students worked on a Significant Problem, the Same Problem, where they had to make a Specific Choice, and make a Simultaneous Report.

Michaelsen found that this structured problem-solving method for in-class activities really helped to deeply engage students with the content and readily understand how to apply their learning.