F8-TEAM3-1 - Evaluating the benefits of Team-Based Learning in a Systems Programming Class

2. Research-to-Practice Full Paper
Alark Joshi1 , Amit Jain2, Marissa Schmidt2, Shane Panter2
1 University of San Francisco
2 Boise State University

In this Research-to-Practice Full Paper, we present the results of using Team-Based Learning (TBL) for teaching a sophomore-level systems programming class. As we address the current wave of ever-increasing class sizes in Computer Science, it is increasingly difficult to provide sustained engagement in the class material. The amount of personalized attention and opportunities for interactive discussions too is limited due to the large size of the class.

We transformed a sophomore-level systems programming course by embracing the Team-Based Learning (TBL) pedagogical structures. The goal of TBL is to provide opportunities for students to apply their knowledge in the classroom to solve problems rather than just covering content. The TBL approach requires students to read relevant material (book chapter, paper, news article, and so on) before
they come to class. For each unit, the students take an individual quiz on the assigned reading followed by a team quiz. The team quiz is the same quiz as the individual quiz, but the team has to agree on an answer before they record it. This leads to excellent discussions to resolve any misconceptions about the reading that students may have. The team quiz leads to high levels of engagement and excitement in the classroom, after which the class is ready to engage with the material more deeply and in a more hands-on manner. We conduct mini-lectures when required but most of the in-class time is spent on applying their knowledge on small problems.  They work on solving these problems as a team or individually depending on the concept being discussed that day.

Based on the performance over multiple offerings of the course using TBL, we found that TBL had a statistically significant impact on student performance in 2 of the 5 programming assignments. Additionally, the end-of-semester student survey indicated that 88% of the students thought that the team-based learning activities such as individual quizzes, team quizzes, and in-class team activities benefited them and helped them understand the material better. Students mentioned that they made friends and felt like they belonged in Computer Science (fostering a sense of community in large classrooms) and frequently studied with some of their team members for the course assignments. Compared to a previous offering of the course that was purely lecture-based, the students performance was better on programming assignments as well as on the final exam.