The use of MCQs within team based learning: choosing the right approach to foster student learning
Team Based Learning (TBL) is a learning and assessment strategy that aims to foster learning through the facilitation and development of group cohesiveness which transforms small groups into effective learning teams. It is based on four principles: large teams; student accountability; use of assignments which promote learning and team development and frequent and immediate feedback. The latter two are the focus of this presentation. An outline of the how TBL operates in the classroom will be presented following which there will be a focus on assessment strategies. The key assessment strategy used in TBL is the multiple choice test (MCQ) which is used to assess the extent to which students have engaged with the pre-sessional learning activities. This is known as the readiness assurance test (RAT) and focusses on the understanding of key concepts. Students take the test individually (iRAT), and then take the same test as a group (tRAT). Each group is encouraged to discuss, to debate, to refer back to pre-sessional material, to propose, justify and eventually come to a group decision on what they believe to be the correct answer. Immediate feedback is a key feature of the RATs. MCQs as a commonly used assessment technique is re-visited in the context of its use in TBL. The challenges and benefits of different approaches to the MCQ tests are considered and the factors which influenced the final decision about which approach to use are discussed. The importance of immediacy of feedback in TBL is also outlined. Within the TBL process, following the iRAT and the tRAT, students work in groups on an application activity such as a case study following which each group will make a specific decision based on the information provided, drawing on their collective knowledge, understanding and ability to apply concepts covered in the pre-sessional learning materials. Groups report simultaneously on the choice made and the decision making process. It will be argued that TBL is a teaching and learning strategy which, through the use of specific learning and assessment activities, gives students immediate and on-going feedback and insight into their performance, promotes higher order learning and facilitates the development of interpersonal skills which are particularly appropriate for students on professional programmes.
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