Student team working around a desk, using paper and pens to solve a problem.
Annual NTF Symposia

Introducing Team-Based Learning – was it worth the bother?

Natalie Capel,1 Laura Hancock,1,2 Chloe Howe,1 Graeme Jones,1 Daniela Plana1 and Tess Phillips,1

1. School of Chemical and Physical Sciences Keele University; 2. School of Chemistry University of Birmingham 

The quick answer is Yes, but if you want to know more then read on…… 

In the white-hot heat of discovering that new wonder teaching strategy, it is often not clear what the benefits might be. Here we highlight some of the bonuses we have had from introducing Team-Based Learning (TBL) into the Keele Chemistry course, along with the great big spoonful’s of luck we have had. We have chosen not to focus on the trials and tribulations, as these are circumstance-specific, and you will overcome these if you feel your strategy is right. 

We are a definite ‘bottom-up’ story; a chance attendance at a conference session by two colleagues in the summer of 2014 led to one of them recklessly deciding to give TBL a go that October.  We really didn’t understand all of TBL, here is a quick guide1, but it just felt right and worth a try. The first session started, the supportive colleague called by about 20 minutes in, observed for a while and said – ‘it seems to work’. This was based on a room full of teams of students actively working on problems together, followed by a facilitated discussion with the other teams. 

Why was it a success? We hit lucky with the topic, that year’s class were a good bunch and also TBL is one of those pedagogies where there is a lot in the preparation and the session is clearly structured – reassuring for the instructor. 

We also got an early chance to share our experience at a University symposium, made a lot easier by the individual and team Readiness Assurance Tests (iRAT and tRAT) providing data to present, showing the improved performance of Teams over individuals. By sharing, things snowballed – others in the School and University were interested, we wrote up our experience for JADE2, we put together a consortium, were awarded a Keele Innovation Project and we joined the education symposium circuit. 

From a team of two we are now fifteen who practice TBL with a core team of six – check out our website3.  We have given thirty presentations, written four papers, one book chapter (Capel et. al4) and we know of six other institutions who use TBL after hearing about it through us. Staff, BSc and MChem students have run research projects on TBL. TBL is so central to our teaching that, when COVID struck, a colleague wrote the code for a TBL scratchcard5 so we could do TBL on MS Teams which is now free to use for anyone. 

TBL has contributed to two FHEA and three SFHEA awards, four teaching fellow to lecturer transitions, one promotion and move to another University, one Royal Society of Chemistry prize and one CATE award, all the more impressive as four of the core team are part-time workers and three have taken time out for maternity leave. 

All in all, while TBL has helped us to improve our teaching and student performance it has, more importantly, been a catalyst to create a dynamic and supportive team of staff. 

Through thick and thin, TBL is our Happy Place. 


1. Keele University, What is TBL?  

2. Jones GR and Hancock LH, p. 98, Available at:,  

3. Keele University, The Keele Centre for Team Based Learning  

4. N. J. Capel, L. M. Hancock, C. Howe, G. R. Jones, T. R. Phillips and D. Plana, Using Team Based Learning to promote problem solving through active learning, Chapter 11 in Problems and Problem Solving in Chemistry Education Ed. G. Tsaparlis RSC 2021. 

5. Gottardi C.E.A., 2021, Instant-Feedback Online Scratchard  

Image: Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Twitter: Follow @KeeleTBL for more information about TBL from the team at Keele University