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That’s challenging not just for most freshmen but for most in- troductory courses. Hilleren likens bio-105 to “starting a foreign language—lots of new vocabulary and grammar to memorize before you can advance.” But along with all that content acqui- sition, she says, “we wanted to give these students the skills to learn on their own and to work with others to tackle problems, and that was a lot less possible in the straight-lecture format.” At peer evaluation time, Hilleren told the class, “For those of you who are uncomfortable about this, trust me: this is a very valuable part of being a productive team.” Afterward, she called their comments “constructive, realistic, and positive— really meaningful. I thank you for that effort.” To end that same class period, Drake prompted some friendly rivalry by inviting teams to the front of the auditorium (for just fractions of extra points) to share their answers from the exercises. Amid cheers and whistles, several brave young souls gladly explained and defended their team’s answers. Presenting their conclu- sions, critiquing each other, even the foxhole solidarity of blaming the professors for the rigors of TBL—they’re all part of “forging a sense of belonging in a collaborative learning com- munity,” Drake says.

On their TBL feedback forms, students did voice some com- mon frustrations. Many were “very disappointed” to get only brief lectures before taking on the team exercises. “We are ex- pected to ask further in-depth questions before we even have a solid foundation on the material,” one student wrote. And those exercises sometimes consisted of “mostly arguing with my peers” as the team “rushed to scratch off the right answers.” As one put

it, “I’d rather have a lecture than struggle through confusingly written questions meant to screw us up.” Others echoed the stu- dent who exclaimed in all caps: “I don’t want my grade to de- pend on whether my peers are prepared.” As for the start-of-class quizzes, some appreciated that they “forced you to do the read- ing and really remember it,” while others argued they took too much time away from lectures or teamwork. Perhaps the most poignant comment from a lecture-craving student: “We had to teach everything to ourselves.” On the last day, when Hilleren ended the class early and said the rest of the period was “time for yourself,” immediately stu- dents collected notebooks and knapsacks and stood up … only to gather with their teams to continue working on the day’s ex- ercises. Not one student left early. Seeing that, Drake and Hill - eren lit up with joy.

Delivering bio-105 as a TBL course was “quite demanding, but totally worth it,” they say, because the engagement of stu- dents was much stronger—from attendance to participation to exam scores—than in the all-lecture format. Drake adds, “We learned a lot that we’ll use to improve the course for next year,” and in March she was already attending another TBL training seminar. Having previously taught lectures of 250 at a big uni- versity, she says: “At a liberal arts college like ours, seminar- style and team-based learning are what we should be offering.” (She’s incorporated TBL in her advanced courses too.) Now she and Hilleren are eagerly watching to see how their students’ early immersion in engaged, collaborative learning will serve them in their next seven semesters, and beyond.



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