Issue No.:HB20150115E Date:2015-01-15 Author:Liang, Jen-Kai、Chang, I-Hua、Wu, Chuan-Wei  More News facebook

The model of TEAM Model Team-based Learning: Vision and Practice


Team-based learning is an innovative teaching strategy and model, in which the classroom structure is to place the class into multiple teams and to learn and solve problems through self-learning, thinking, discussing, and expressing their ideas.
This article will discuss the TBL (team-based learning) model, under the TEAM Model idea, and to raise cases that have utilized this model in practice. First, we will elaborate on the academic fundamentals of the original team-based learning, then integrate TEAM Model and the concept of smarter classroom, and raise the topic of the TEAM Model TBL. We will describe this model’s merits and advantages, and then combined with practical experiences; we will talk about the TBL application environment and key application system under a smarter classroom setting. In the past, it was immensely difficult for teachers to realize the idea of modern education in a traditional classroom, but with the aid of technology, we can make this innovative process easier. Finally, this paper will also talk about a case study on the TBL model, which realizes the in-depth integration of education and information technology.

i. Smarter class founded under the concept of modern education and smarter classroom

To keep up with the impending era of globalization of competition and knowledge economics, the reformation of education has reestablished its focus on fostering diverse skill-sets of a student. Like organizations or countries such as the UNESCO, EU, and the United States, which have all brought forth key skill-set indicators in the 21st century such as lifelong learning, effective communications, creative thinking, problem-solving, and teamwork (Huang, 2010), the 12-year compulsory education policy in Taiwan also highlights visionary targets such as “merit based on individual characters” and “enhancing citizenship qualities” (Ministry of Education, 2010). The “Mid-to-long-term educational reform and development planning abstract (2010-2020)” in Mainland China also set forth targets such as “Quality Educational Reform” and “Lifelong Learning” (Xinhua, 2010). From the skill-set indicators brought forth by international organizations and the educational policies implemented by each country, we can be certain that the idea of modern education will place more emphasis on the learning quality and the nurturing of diverse aptitude of students.

Under such trends of global educational thinking, classroom teaching has become the core to educational reform. As opposed to the traditional teacher-centered teaching method, according to many literatures on educational research and learning theories, student-centered method is the best teaching method that reflects diversity (Shi, 2012a). Many educators and frontline teachers have all brought forth innovative teaching methods that correspond with modern educational concept, for instance , Peer Instruction (Mazur, 1997), Collaborative Learning (translated by Huang and Chung, 2012), Flipped Classroom (Bishop & Verleger, 2013), Learning, Thinking and Expressing (Chang, 2015), IRS – Interactive Response System (Liu, Liang, Wang, Chan & Wei, 2003) etc. In practice, most classroom teaching is composed of a mixture of teacher-centered and student-centered, but if we were to separate the “teaching” and “learning” in classroom, we can classify as the following models: Lecture-Based Learning (LBL), Team-Based Learning (TBL) (Michaelsen, Knight & Fink, 2002), and Problem-Based Learning (PBL) (Barrows & Tamblyn, 1980) etc., with the highest form being the student-centered 1-to-1 learning (see Figure 1). In these teaching models, we can utilize the intelligence, convenience, and efficiency (ICE) teaching environment enabled by modern technology (such as electronic whiteboard, student-tablet, IRS) to assist teachers to realize various innovative teaching models. Hence, the classroom teaching revolution founded on the idea of modern education can be interpreted as a process from teacher-centered to student-centered teaching (Chang & Wu, 2014).

Figure 1. The “teaching” and “learning” models during class

ii. The merits and advantages of TBL model

TBL (team-based learning) contains multiple steps according to Michaelsen’s definition: it contains preview, individual testing, team testing, team discussion, and group work etc. These steps encourage students to self-study, and to ensure the basic outcomes of self-studying in a student, with added values of individual and group tests. Team testing will be conducted in discussing and reaching for a consensus, and should a team have any questions, they will also be encouraged to raise them and interact with teachers. The target effect is to equip students with fundamental knowledge, and to achieve learning outcomes with higher-level teamwork. The TBL learning steps would take longer to prepare under Michaelsen’s definition, and special testing papers would need to be printed; thus, it is often adopted by medical school systems which have more resources, and are rarely found in basic education. Later on, Michaelsen has also pointed out that the key in TBL is in appropriate grouping, the methods of ensuring individual learning assessing team learning, instant and repeated response and interaction, as well as designing team-based tasks that induce learning and teamwork (Michaelsen & Sweet, 2008). If we were to utilize the primary keys in this definition flexibly, TBL would then become the most feasible core in all innovative teaching models currently being developed. For example, the Learning Community and Learning, Thinking, and Expressing models currently taking the education field by storm, are all practical methods that look to the TBL spirit.

TEAM Model TBL is an innovative teaching strategy and model founded under TBL (team-based learning) and smarter classroom, and it contains the following merits (see Table 1).

Table 1. TBL method’s merits

1. Grouping of teams

Separate the class into various teams.

2. Pose a problem

The core of the class will be on team-based discussion and problem-solving.

3. Proactive learning

Students should be proactively initiating learning.

4. Teacher’s guidance

A teacher’s goal is to guide and facilitate the motivation for teamwork.

5. Real-world learning

Students will learn under real-world simulation environment, exerting the advantages of learning in a large class.

6. Technological assistance

A teacher will utilize technology to facilitate student’s learning.

7. Perceiving the thinking process

A teacher is in perceiving of the learning of individual, teams, and the entire class.

The TBL classroom setting places a class into several teams and with student’s self-learning as a basis, the class will be focused on team-based discussion and problem-solving. Having a student thinking and solving problems by himself (herself) helps the student to proactively think, and on the other hand, team-based discussion allows students with varying levels to learn and benefit under a real-world simulation environment, or in other words, practice makes perfect. The real-world environment refers to the human interaction, communication, cooperation, discussion, and sharing. TBL model has these traits, allowing the large classroom setting in most schools these days to exert their maximum effects.

In a classroom that practices the TBL model, a teacher’s role is transformed from the original knowledge giver, to a guide in learning. Research has shown that the normal talking speed of an average person is around 200 words per minute, and the reading speed of an elementary school student can reach 400 words per minute, while as middle and high school students can even achieve over 500-600 words per minute (Sung, n.d.; Sun, Morita, Stark, 1985; Sun, 1993). Hence, by decreasing a teacher’s lecture in a class and increasing the time for students to self-study and reflect, the efficiency of relaying and taking in information can also be enhanced. Once the classroom lecture has decreased, a teacher will instead focus on utilizing activity design and classroom management strategies to induce team motivation, and through utilizing educational technology to assist student’s learning, and to observe student’s thinking. In this way, a teacher will be able to stay on top of the learning processes of individuals, teams, and even the entire class.

The TBL model is advantageous towards a teacher’s teaching and student’s learning(see Table 2).

Table 2. Advantages of the TBL model

To a student’s learning process:

1. Induce passion in proactive learning.

2. Promote high-level thinking such as integration, assessment, and creativity.

3. Foster the understanding and skills in teamwork.

To a teacher’s teaching process:

1. It can place equal emphasis on the educational needs of testing and attaining diverse skill-sets.

2. It’s easier to switch from teacher-centered to student-centered.

3. Students of all levels can benefit.

4. It can be incorporated with classroom activities such as Flipped Classroom.

In terms of a student’s learning, TBL model can stimulate the student to solve problems and improve his (her) passion in proactive learning. Students participate in problems and situations in class, enhancing their motivation and desire to learn, and experiments and research have proven that this helps to enhance the effectiveness in student’s learning (McInerney & Fink, 2003; Tan, Kandiah, Chan, Umapathi, Lee, & Tan, 2011). In the process of interacting and exchanging ideas with their peers and teachers, students’ higher-level thinking capability such as integration, assessment, and creation are enhanced, which further leads to key expertise essential in future leaders such as communications, innovation, thinking, collaboration, and problem-solving ( Shi, 2012b). For a teacher, there are also many advantages in carrying out TBL model in a classroom. For instance, when a teacher wishes for changes to occur, he (she) might hesitate due to pressure from test performance. On the other hand, TBL model has already been proven by studies to simultaneously enhance students’ diverse talents and quantitative scores. When a teacher’s lecture time is decreased in a classroom, students will have more time to self-learn, think, and discuss, which actually presents teachers with the opportunity to switch from teacher-centered teaching to student-centered. The peer learning and learning through practice between students can benefit students with varying levels. Moreover, the TBL model is also a very suitable in-class activity in a Flipped Classroom, as both models contain elements of self-learning, in-class discussion, and student-centered learning.

iii. The application environment of TBL model

The HiTeach TBL system, part of the TEAM Model smarter class, is a facilitation system designed to help teachers to carry out TBL model in class (see Figure 2). It highly integrates student-tablet smarter classroom, IES cloud-based learning assistance platform’s “Flipped Classroom Service” and the HiTA app, allowing teachers to freely access TBL model and strategy at any given time during class. Teachers can comprehensively stay on top of each and every student’s preview progress prior to class through the cloud-based platform, conveniently and effectively collect, integrate, and classify students’ discussion outcomes during class, grasp each team’s learning outcomes at any given time, and fully exert the advantages and strengthen the effectiveness of team-based learning.

Figure 2. TBL model’s application environment

As shown in Figure 2, in a TEAM Model smarter classroom, students are placed in multiple teams, and each time will be equipped with a tablet PC, which will be used as a tool to collect data, create output and feedback. Every student holds an IRS and can offer individualized feedback for in-class activities such as problems, research, and peer assessment. For a list of classroom equipment, please see Table 3.

Table 3. TBL smarter lecture classroom equipment



Teacher’s computer

1computer, installed with HiTeach TBL software and integrated with various equipment.

HiTeach TBL system  

1set, offers application tools for software integration and allows teachers to discuss and interact with various teams.

Super-short throw projector

1projector, which projects computer images to the electronic whiteboard.

Haboard interactive electronic whiteboard

1set, serves as the multimedia touch-based platform for teachers.


1 set, includes several student remotes (depending on class size, one for each student), and receivers etc., to instantly attain students’ feedback or assessment.

Tablet PC

Several tablet PCs(depending on number of teams, one for each team)serve as the tool for teams’ discussion, writing, and production.


Several authorized copies(depending on number of teams, install one set on each tablet PC1)offer tools for discussion and bridges communications between students and teachers.


Installed in the teacher’s smartphone so the teacher could utilize the software to control HiTeach TBL and take photos during class monitoring.


1 set, installed in the server, offers IES cloud-based serves such as class list, management for data related to learning processes, course material, and multimedia resources.

Video:HiTeach TBL

Figure 3 and figure 4 represent sample seating allocation in a TBL classroom.

Figure 3. TBL classroom seating allocation sample 1


Figure 4. TBL classroom seating allocation sample 2

Teachers, on the other hand, would utilize the HiTeach TBL system, in which they will present course material on an electronic whiteboard or touch-screen, incorporate the discussion results of students (such as Figure 5-A), examine the learning outcomes of each team, and conduct smarter class monitoring with the HiTA app in their smart phones. Teachers can instantly photograph students’ enthusiastic discussions, the team’s outcomes, or individual student’s unique thinking and work, and this can be instantly shown and shared with the rest of the class, adding on to the wealth of course materials.

Compared to having each student take control of a tablet PC, having a tablet PC per team greatly lessens a teacher’s pressure in equipment management. In addition, by sharing a tablet PC with a team, a student will focus more in class, and won’t be caught up by using the tablet all the time (Figure 5-B).

A A teacher is compiling results of students’ discussions on the electronic whiteboard.

B Students are using their team’s tablet PC as the tool for their discussion and research
Figure 5. Actual scenes of studying in a TBL classroom

iv. The key mechanism in TBL model

As a matter of fact, ever since it was first conceived in the 1980s, TBL model has since been developing for over 30 years. Theoretically, it can be seen as a developmental divergent from the PBL learning model, which started in the 1950s in medical education (Kuan, 2014). In the past, teachers are met with challenges when attempting to exert TBL in a traditional classroom, for instance, ineffective discussions within teams, or even no discussions. During class, a teacher was only capable of focusing on the discussions and presentations of each team, and overlooked the individual differences between students. In a team, there may be a student, who wished to take control over everything, or students who were shunned, or students who could not keep up with the class; when a team was presenting, other teams might have been busy preparing their own reports. Finally, even though students were placed in teams and teachers had designed discussion questions, but the target of TBL may have been missed due to these situations, so that teaching effectiveness was no different from traditional teaching. Only the middle-ranged students were cared for, and both gifted students and students falling behind were overlooked.

Hence, how to achieve synergy and avoid the situation of everybody’s business becoming nobody’s business, have become an important issue in carrying out TBL model. Figure 6 lists out seven mechanisms, which are crucial keys to carrying out successful TBL model.

Figure 6. Key mechanisms in Team-Based Learning model

v. Cases of TBL model implementation

Stringent teaching processes have been dictated for the TBL circle by the academia. However, for a frontline teacher who needs to face children with different ages and characteristics as well as teach different subjects, as long as its vision and key mechanisms are maintained, TBL model’s benefits can also be exerted to positive effects. In the past, in a traditional classroom, it was immensely difficult for a teacher in attempting to switch from a lecture-based course to a TBL, or even PBL model (see Figure 10); on the contrary, through the aid of technology, many objective limitations or ironies can be solved, so that this breakthrough, innovative process can become as easy as what is shown in Figure 11.

Figure 10. Under the groundwork of traditional classroom, the threshold to realizing modern educational theories is high

Figure 11. With the support of smarter lecture, the threshold to realizing modern educational theories is low

Finally, the below picture depicts TBL expert Dr. Jen Kai Liang, demonstrating a 7th grade Probability class in a TEAM Model Smarter Lecture classroom. He has perfectly demonstrated technology-facilitated TBL model.

Video: The model of TEAM Model Team-based Learning: Vision and Practice

vi. Bibliography

Chinese literature

English literature

Author Info

Liang, Jen-Kai (Steven Liang)
Doctor of Engineering from Department of Computer Science & Information Engineering, National Central University; founder and senior vice president of technological R&D at HABOOK Information Technology. His team, in collaboration with academic institutions including National Central University, developed excellent products of educational technology, positioning themselves as a pioneer in the development of educational technology products in Taiwan. Dr. Liang has a background in education and experience in teaching. In addition to education, he is experienced in software and hardware development, with specialties and patents in fields of RF radio frequency technology, educational evaluation, statistics, and analytical theory and practice. He was a researcher of highly interactive classroom for the “Learning Technology Enhancement Program” at the Ministry of Education, teacher at National Taipei University of Education Experimental Elementary School, adjunct instructor at National Central University, and general manager at AClass Learning Technology. He also wrote over one hundred books on computer technology.
Chang, I-Hua (Eric Chang)
Doctor of educational leadership and policy analysis and master of information science and learning technology from University of Missouri–Columbia. His specialties include principal technology leadership and management, smart classroom and innovation diffusion, principal in data-driven decision making, and teacher academic optimism and influences. His works include School Technology Leadership and Management, Smarter Education: Vision & Practice,and over one hundred papers in local and international journals and seminars (inducing SSCI and TSSCI). Dr. Chang is currently a full-time professor at National Chengchi University Department of Education and director at Taiwan Technology Leadership and Instructional Technology Development Association.
Wu Chuan-Wei (Power Wu)
Founder and chairman of HABOOK Information Technology. He specializes in educational technology and educational system development. He founded the international “TEAM Model” smart classroom brand and system with which he successfully established large-scale smart education experimental model schools and smart education model school districts. His practical and academic experience of over 20 years in elementary school and normal university has resulted in works includingSmarter Education: Vision & Practiceand over one hundred books on computer and information. He is passionate for education and aims at helping teachers realize their ideals and create new possibilities for education. Professor Wu is currently an executive director at Taiwan Technology Leadership and Instructional Technology Development Association, secretary-general at Smarter Education District Alliance, and visiting professor at Beijing Institute of Education and Chengdu Normal University.

Further Reading

A good teaching model needs to be quickly copied and diffused. The best way to achieve this is a “TEAM Model TBL” seminar that include public lecture and demonstration, expert keynote and instruction, and workshop for experience sharing and practice. Download theTBL Teaching Enhancement Seminar Programfor reference.