Why we took this approach
We were designing a new programme with a minor strand in leadership, and wanted to give it something distinctive. TBL gave students the opportunity to practise as leaders, acquiring key leadership skills such as accountability and giving and receiving feedback. We were also addressing issues we had observed with attendance and engagement, and particularly academic skills.
What we did
We started with an existing 30 credit second year module, Leadership in Practice, which was easy to divide into topics. Each topic, based on a different theory of leadership, had pre-session learning which asked the students to bring something to the class. Application exercises consisted of case studies which required the students to apply literature, and those with the most relevance to the Learning Outcomes were assessed summatively.
Students were able to teach each other academic skills as they described their own practice in critical reading, note-taking, and citing the literature. We included personal tutors in the teaching, enabling them to get to know their students and improve pastoral connections.
TBL was extended to a 30-credit strand across the whole course, adding a new first year module and adapting a third year module.
The challenges we faced
Introducing TBL was not completely plain sailing! There were teething troubles with the technology used to run the Readiness Assurance tests. This improved as staff and student confidence with the systems increased.
Some students objected to being put into tutor-selected groups, but we were able to demonstrate that self-selected groups caused all kinds of social problems. Some students came in with fixed mind-sets and were very focused on their own high marks and reluctant to work with others.
Feedback and reflections
Grades and good degrees improved. Attendance was much better than in non-TBL modules from the same course. Students from the start of their studies gained skills to delve into academic literature.
Following this work, I recently qualified as a TBL training consultant with the TBL Consortium.