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TBL Planning Guide

Team-based learning (TBL) spaces at Michigan are classrooms with unique features that support several instructional strategies, including active learning, project-based learning, and team-based learning. The common element of all these strategies is the focus on providing students, individually and in groups, with opportunities to interact with the course content through instruction and activities that involve higher order thinking skills, such as problem solving, analysis, and construction of knowledge.

The information below describes a flexible process for preparing to teach in a TBL space.

Step 1: Review the design of the course and adjust the components as appropriate


The following information poses key questions to guide your adaptation of the basic course components referenced in the graphic above: the student learning outcomes, your methods and tools for assessing students, and the course content and learning activities.

Student Learning Outcomes

  • Are your learning outcomes expressed as statements of what students will know or do by the end of your course?

  • Are they measurable, in that you can use them to assess student learning?

Assessment and Grading Strategy

  • Does your assessment strategy include methods for formative assessment (monitoring student learning) as well as summative evaluation (evaluating student learning)?

  • Does each assessment include sufficiently detailed criteria for success or mastery?

  • Are there assessments that you could revise to raise the level of Bloom’s Taxonomy addressed?

Course Instruction and Activities

  • Have you reviewed the course content and prioritized the information that is most critical to address in class where you can provide your insights and expertise? Is that prioritized content “chunked” into logical units of instruction? These units or modules may span multiple class sessions.

  • Are the activities in each chunk of classes structured to effectively use the levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy? For example, the first session or two could include mini-lectures that confirm the content students learned outside of class. Students could then complete activities where they apply that information to problems and situations. Bloom’s is an iterative cycle that can follow this sequence:

    • Before class - Complete lower order thinking activities, such as readings or video content, to acquire foundational knowledge. Practice or interact with that content to identify gaps in understanding.

    • During class - Complete higher order thinking activities, moving from more simple applications that focus on addressing student questions to complex activities, such as case studies or group problem-solving.

    • After class - Finish higher order thinking activities and begin next set of lower order thinking activities.

For a list of possible ideas and their correlating level in the taxonomy, see the ISS Active Learning Framework web pages.

  • Are the activities structured to include:

    • Connections to the appropriate learning outcomes and summative assessments.

    • Clear instructions and a plan for their use in class.

    • A wrap-up that gives students context, resolves any misconceptions, and sets the stage for the next steps?

  • Do you have techniques in place that ensure that students come prepared to participate fully in class activities, such as understanding checks or readiness assessments?

Step 2: Utilize the instructional tools you have to implement your design goals


As the graphic above illustrates, you have many instructional tools available. When considering which ones to implement, don’t get overwhelmed. Choose several topics that offer opportunities for active learning and collect information from students about their experience. Course design is an iterative process, enabling you to build on your successes in future terms.

Learning Space Features

How will you utilize the physical features of the space for in-class activities?

  • Ensuring that students can participate verbally and hear all contributions, via supplementary microphones like Catchboxes or hand-held microphones.
  • Determining furniture layouts for various types of activities like student presentations, exams and other assessments, guest speakers.

For more information on room features, review the Weiser 110/120 TBL Space Quick Reference Guide or the Chem A859 TBL Space Quick Reference Guide (coming soon).

A useful technique for mapping out the details of an activity is to use a physical drawing of the room and think through the movements of the students as well as your own.

Technology Tools

Would a different or additional use of technology enable you to better use time in class or result in students coming to class better prepared? Could technology tools be utilized to increase opportunities for risk-free practice and application, with effective feedback? You could consider:

  • Using Canvas features that support active learning or Team-based Learning, such as Discussions, Quizzes, Modules, and the Media Gallery
  • Using class response systems, such as iClicker or Slido, for activities like understanding checks at the beginning of class.
  • Using homework applications to provide quizzes or understanding checks outside of class.

Classroom Management Techniques

How will you structure in-class activities? You have many choices as an instructor about how class activities are structured, depending on whether you prefer more informal arrangements or a more structured approach. Your decisions depend on several factors, including the level of the students, the nature of the course content, and your teaching style. When deciding how you want to manage in-class activities, consider the elements in the chart below.

  Informal Structure Formal Structure

Group Formation

  • Informal methods of constructing student groups

  • No formal roles or roles assigned on the fly

Groups constructed using tools like CATME or Canvas Groups or based on information from surveys (e.g., residence locations or project interests)

Activity Structure

Less detailed instructions for group activities, but usually with a description of the intended result High level of specificity in instructions, e.g. the steps to take and their order, the time allowed at each step, and what to do with the activity results
Method of Submission and Assessment A less formal method of submitting work, such as volunteers sharing with the full class The outcome of the activity is a graded submission and may involve multiple submissions as well as both individual and group assessments

Media Options

How can you find or create media, either to provide access to course content outside of class, or to offer additional ways to review lecture material? You could consider:

  • Publicly available video content, audio content, or images.
  • Previously recorded lecture captures.

Strategies for Communicating with Students and Collecting Feedback

How will students know what to expect from this course format? How will you gather data about the effectiveness of the course throughout the term? Ways to accomplish this include:

  • Adding information to your syllabus that explains the format of the course, your reasons for using the format and your expectations for students. 
  • Adding information to the syllabus that describes the modules or units of the course content -- a course roadmap.
  • Spending all or a portion of the first day of class discussing the format of the course with students, including
    • Reviewing the information about the format form the syllabus
    • Discussing the evidence that this type of course format is successful
    • Explaining how students can be successful
  • Using informal surveys to gather student feedback in order to resolve any issues quickly.


Graphic icons made by the Freepik collection from,, and Google Images.