Trying Team-Based Learning in Two Classrooms: What can an Anthropologist Learn from a Statistician and Vice Versa?

  • Olu Awosoga
  • Jeff Meadows University of Lethbridge
  • Janice Newberry
Keywords: Team-based learning, student engagement, reducing barriers to innovation, cross-disciplinary collaboration in SoTL research


Team-based learning (TBL) was originally designed in the context of business education (Michaelsen, Knight & Fink, 2004) but has proven to be a remarkably adaptable approach. Here, an anthropologist and a statistician compare notes on how they have used TBL in two of their courses, a third year Statistics course and a first year Anthropology course. Their motivations for adopting aspects of TBL differed, as did their methods for researching its effectiveness. The anthropologist sought to create the social networks of support that would make a campus “sticky” enough to keep first-year students in school through cohort-type experience and to introduce them to the higher-order thinking needed for second year classes. The statistician wanted to reduce anxiety around a dreaded, required class and reduce the perception of a barrier created by his accent. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the statistician chose to use quantitative methods to assess how TBL was working, while the anthropologist relied on qualitative methods. Further, while the anthropologist was more interested in how TBL was working, the statistician tracked whether it was working for students. In this article, we tack back and forth between accounts of why we chose to use TBL, how we adapted TBL to serve our purposes, and how we researched TBL in our respective classrooms. Ultimately, our contrasting experiences demonstrated the flexibility of team-based learning as a way to increase student engagement, accountability, and success, and the importance of allies in supporting innovation in teaching and learning.

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