Team-Based Learning: Strategies And Lessons Learned

  • Laura Poms George Mason University
  • Stephanie Foster George Mason University
  • Elaine Viccora George Mason University
  • Jay Jayamohan George Mason University
  • Steven Harris-Scott George Mason University
  • Shvetha Soundararajan George Mason University


Location: JC Room D

Team-based learning in undergraduate education has become the norm in many disciplines. With the growth of team-based capstone projects, the introduction of the Mason Impact initiative, and the need to produce career-ready graduates, courses that feature a strong team-based component will likely become more common. Accordingly, the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU) has identified teamwork as one of the essential outcomes of a college education. Professors often build team-based learning activities into their courses with the hope that students already know how to "play well with others." However, the reality is that many student groups do not know how (or are unable) to communicate effectively and function as a team. Ineffective teamwork leads to poor academic work products, uneven learning, and frustration for everyone involved. The theme of the 2019 Innovations in Teaching and Learning Conference is "Educating the whole student." This panel on fostering teamwork fits nicely with this theme as a holistic approach is essential if professors want to promote collaboration and better equip individual students with skills they need to be successful in a team environment. In this panel discussion, participants in the 2018-2019 Stearns Center sponsored Team-based Learning Faculty Learning Community will share insights, tips, and tricks gleaned from their review of best practices from the literature, their own classroom experiences, and from other institutions. Simply dividing students into groups to accomplish their work does little to ensure that students will be interdependent and work together to accomplish common goals. While professors cannot ensure that students have the emotional intelligence and communication skills to work successfully on a team, they can incorporate structures into their course and assignments that promote a culture of team cohesion, accountability, and most importantly, collaborative learning. Panelists will highlight the important role of professors in facilitating teamwork by providing guidance on how to:

  • Develop more effective team assignments
  • Organize teams
  • Prevent common problems
  • Evaluate team assignments and collaborative learning
  • Assess individual learning in a team-based environment

Panelists will outline how professors can promote collaborative learning from the very beginning of the course (structuring the team assignment and orienting students to expectations), during the middle stages of team development (using activities to foster cohesion and creating a space for open communication and feedback), and the very end (bringing closure to the team and evaluating both team product and process). The panelâs discussion will be structured around these stages (beginning, middle, end), and each panelist will share specific strategies they have used at a particular stage. Examples of the specific strategies to be shared include models for organizing teams, activities to promote cohesion, ways to help teams with problem-solving, and use of the AACU VALUE rubric to assess teamwork.

Author Biographies

Laura Poms, George Mason University

**2018 University Teaching Excellence Award Winner**

Laura Wheeler Poms is an Associate Professor and Undergraduate Program Director in Global and Community Health. She is an occupational health psychologist focusing on how an individual's work environment influences physical and mental health. Her research interests also include the scholarship of teaching and learning. She is the co-author of Understanding Epidemiology, now in its second edition, which is one of the only textbooks to designed to teach epidemiology specifically to undergraduate students. She was a 2018 George Mason University Teaching Excellence Award winner and a 2016 College of Health and Human Services Master Teacher Award winner.

Stephanie Foster, George Mason University

**4-VA Grant Recipient **

Office of Undergraduate Education

Elaine Viccora, George Mason University

School of Business

Business Foundations

Jay Jayamohan, George Mason University

School of Business 


Steven Harris-Scott, George Mason University

INTO Mason 

Shvetha Soundararajan, George Mason University

Volgenau School of Engineering 

Computer Science 

1:00pm-1:40pm Mini-Workshops, Panels, & Roundtables