So, one of my classes last semester and three of my classes this semester decided to use, in some way, shape or form, a new-ish way of teaching known as team based learning. For anyone who doesn't know what that is yet, you pretty much get assigned or choose a team of people in your class and complete many activities as a team, including some quizzes and problems and what not. Every so often you have a quiz first that tests your own preparedness for the class and then take the same quiz again but now with your team or group. Then you do other stuff with your team and write up a contract on who does what and what rules you're going to abide by.

This, friends, is why the only class I will thoroughly enjoy this semester is Chinese 102, because it is the only class in which none of this nonsense happens.

Okay, I exaggerate, I don't actually think it's nonsense. Working in groups is actually a helpful tool in trying to solve problems and help each other to learn and teach. However, this kind of format is a perfect example of how our educational system caters to extroverts. I've read so many articles about this and I'd like to also link to this wonderful TED talk by Susan Cain on introverts.

Team based learning has some great features like being able to have a consistent place to discuss things that might be confusing you in readings or material. I like that because I tend to be a person that doesn't do a lot of asking people for help or talking things out with other people, which actually helps a lot. There are some problems that are easier to solve when you have other people to discuss with. Collaboration is a useful tool and something that Duke prides itself in.

But team based learning tends to come hand in hand with flipped classroom methods or some sort of reading outside of class. For people who have no background in the class, unless the material for flipped classroom is very well organized, explained and presented, the class structure doesn't work. Having to take these quizzes and contribute to group work when you hardly understand what the chapters are about doesn't work. Having the professor tell you to come to him at last resort after your groups, help rooms and TAs didn't help doesn't work. Like, how am I supposed to evaluate a professor if he didn't do anything? It's quite frustrating. I had a girl in my group in Physics 142 (E&M) this semester who had never taken physics before and knew pretty much nothing because the "textbook"/ebook that pretty much teaches you nothing because each "chapter" is a page long. No proofs, no helpful videos by the professor (there are videos, they're just not helpful), it's pretty much survival of the whoever has a background in the class. I assume the team stuff is so that if someone has no idea what they're doing, the other team members who do know can teach them so the professor doesn't have to. He's so lazy. Probably not, but the format is. At least for me, learning math and concepts you must later apply, is not so easily done from a textbook.

And my other point was that this system is meant for extroverts. You're forced to discuss with your peers even if you may not necessarily work that way. Peer evaluations as a part of your grade mean that you must talk a lot or people think you're not doing anything. What? It's at least partly true. This world is designed for extroverts and sometimes we don't see that introverts have some really great ideas or great personalities just because we are looking for talkative ones or ones who will keep the party alive. As great a personality that is too, silence and contemplation are lost in them. It's the reason that schools get certain reps -- because the outgoing, more influential people decide what people see the school as. I don't know, I think a lot is lost that could be recovered if we just made people feel more comfortable about sharing their ideas and giving them a space that wasn't so intimidating with loud voices and the strong opinions that come with them. Strong opinions are fine, they're great, but listen to someone else too. The point, team based learning is a great tool, but only if used correctly. Personally, in a class like physics, it is not necessary or useful, and neither is flipped classroom if we're learning solely from a book. It shouldn't be everywhere. I hated group work in high school and college, in some ways, isn't a whole lot different. But that's just me.

3 Responses so far.

  1. Anonymous says:

    you haven't made a new post in forevs! you should put up another one

  2. Anonymous says:

    ITS MARCH! put up a new postt

  3. Sonal says:

    hahah it's a busy week but i definitely will when i go home for spring break. it'll be a long one haha

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