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Team-Based Learning in Economics

Paper Session

Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020 8:00 AM - 10:00 AM (PDT)

Marriott Marquis, Del Mar
Hosted By: American Economic Association & Committee on Economic Education
  • Chair: William Goffe, Pennsylvania State University

Getting the Incentives Right: Learning Science and Team-Based Learning in Economics

Phil Ruder
Pacific University
Mark Maier
Glendale Community College
Scott Simkins
North Carolina A&T State University


Team-Based Learning (TBL) as promoted by the authors’ National Science Foundation project (DUE 1712295) provides opportunities for economics instructors to use a pedagogy that is aligned with learning sciences research on student learning. In this session we will show how TBL incorporates a variety of evidence-based recommendations for more effective student learning (in bold) and ways in which instructors can more easily adopt this pedagogy. Specifically, the TBL Readiness Assurance Process promotes spaced retrieval practice with immediate feedback, while TBL Application Exercises scaffold student learning through the use of elaboration activities grounded in concrete examples, with students working in teams that follow appropriate group formation and accountability structures. Further, the ordering of TBL activities follows recommendations for Schwartz and Bransford’s ‘time for telling’ approach through direct instruction based on prior student engagement to identify gaps in student understanding. Overall, the formal and intentional structure of TBL provides strong incentives for student engagement in the learning process and increased student learning.

TBL Fridays: Using Policy Applications for Effective Team-Based Learning in an Introductory Class

Alan Green
Stetson University


Team-based Learning is a structured active learning method that incorporates pedagogical techniques grounded in research on teaching and learning. The explicit structure of TBL is effective but requires questions for student teams that meet clear criteria such as equal participation and positive interdependence. Most traditional economic questions do not fit these criteria, contributing to underutilization of TBL in economics. This empirical study describes and assesses implementation of TBL weekly in an introductory economics class using policy-based application exercises. The use of policy questions meets the TBL criteria while engaging students in current issues. Results show a significant positive impact of TBL on final exam performance, which increases with student participation on TBL Fridays.

Underrepresented Groups in the Economics Major: The Impact of Using Team-Based Learning in the Principles Course

Marcelo Clerici-Arias
Stanford University


Does the implementation of team-based learning in principles of economics attract more
women as well as racial and ethnic minorities into the classroom? For the past two years we have
experimented with using TBL in some principles courses at Stanford University, and we have
observed a marked increase in the fraction of women and racial/ethnic minorities. Using
difference-in-difference methods to attempt to identify causality, we find that TBL is associated
with an increase of about 9 points in female participation and about 18 points in non-white
student participation in principles of economics.

Results of a Multi-Site Evaluation of Team-Based Learning

Katherine Silz-Carson
United States Air Force Academy


This paper describes results from a fall 2019 multi-site evaluation of the effectiveness of the team-based learning (TBL) pedagogy in introductory economics courses. The evaluation is designed as a multi-site randomized controlled trial in which all sites incorporate a common set of TBL modules into their course syllabi. The use of random assignment to either the treatment or control group for each module, combined with fixed effects econometric model, enables measurement of the treatment effect on student learning while controlling for both student demographic and behavioral (e.g. attendance, study effort) characteristics using student fixed effects.
William Goffe
Pennsylvania State University
W. Edward Chi
Cerritos College
Amber Casolari
Riverside City College
Jennifer Imazeki
San Diego State University
JEL Classifications
  • A2 - Economic Education and Teaching of Economics