Team-Based Learning in Psycholinguistics

In 2017 I had the chance to teach Ling 2PS3 (Psycholinguistics) in one of the new Active Learning Classrooms (ALC) in the L.R. Wilson Building. I designed a course outline that consists of about one-half team-based assignments and projects, and one-half individual tests. In Fall 2017 the class was timetabled with a one-hour class on Tuesdays and a two-hour class on Fridays, so we used the Friday class period for the team assignments three times during the semester. Class periods that weren’t devoted to assignments usually consisted of brief lecture segments interspersed with group activities. This set of slides illustrates a typical class from early in the semester.

To ensure that every member of the team is prepared for full participation in the team’s work, each team assignment begins with an individual multiple-choice quiz worth 2%. The team then completes the same quiz together for an additional 2% using IF-AT response cards that give immediate feedback. Team members think through the quiz questions collectively and argue to persuade each other about the correct answers. For the rest of the class period, they work to complete an assignment worth 6% that they submit within an hour of the end of the class period.

Team Quizzes and Assignments

The semester also includes two individual take-home tests. I’ve found that a take-home test is a useful way of making space for many students’ accommodations: because they can write the test over a 48-hour period in their own chosen space, they don’t need to reserve testing space in SAS to meet their needs. A take-home test also alleviates testing anxiety for students who don’t have documented SAS accommodations. Furthermore, the looser time constraints on a take-home allow me to ask questions in which students extend and apply material they’ve learned, which take longer to answer than is practicable in an in-class test. I have few concerns about academic integrity with the take-home test: my experience is that program students take their learning seriously and are very careful to avoid any behaviour that might be considered cheating. I ask students to upload a signed statement declaring that the work is their own and I trust their declarations.

Individual Take-home Tests

The final project in the course asks teams to prepare an audio or video lesson that will teach their classmates about a finding in psycholinguistics. Teams have two weeks of class time to prepare their projects, and they deliver their presentations in the final week. Allowing class time for the collaboration alleviated many of the scheduling conflicts that can plague teamwork. The students in Fall 2017 genuinely enjoyed creating their projects, and produced some impressive videos!

Project Guidelines and Rubric

Team Oak’s Project: LinguEllen

Team Hawthorn’s Project: The Effects of Bilingualism

Because so much of the learning over the semester takes place in a team environment, creating a traditional, individual final exam seems incongruous. On the other hand, scheduling a team-based exam introduces many challenges around SAS accommodations and other needs. My compromise is to schedule an individual final exam but to provide students with the full exam one week ahead of time. They may work together to prepare their answers, but they need to write their exams individually, without notes, so they need to understand their prepared answers well enough to remember them. In the final exam, I ask questions about studies that we have not discussed in class — to answer the questions, students have to extend their knowledge to interpret data or make predictions based on the theories and results that we did deal with in class. Students have told me that having time to prepare these kinds of questions in advance of the exam allows them to consolidate their learning from the entire semester, which was exactly my goal.

Final Exam

I partnered with an Honours Thesis student to investigate students’ experience in this course; you may read about our research here: Researching Team-Based Learning.

Author: Catherine Anderson

Teaching Professor in Linguistics at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

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