Jump-starting team-based learning in the computer science classroom
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In recent years we have witnessed a resurgence of learner-centered techniques in the college classroom--though not predominantly in the Computer Science classroom. Of all, Peer Instruction (PI) and Team-Based Learning (TBL) have proven themselves as the top two most successful evidence-based, interactive teaching methods. Both have been shown to cut failure rate in introductory classes by half (or more) while increasing self-reported learner satisfaction. However, as peer-based learning techniques with similar aims and outcomes but sharply different individual characteristics, they seem to be located at opposite ends of a spectrum for convenience of implementation. PI's minimal overhead in classroom management and overall setup is partly responsible for its recent, increasingly rapid, acceptance in Computer Science classes. TBL is a slightly more involved technique that however solves the free-riding problem: individuals participating in TBL develop a heightened sense of accountability and motivation. Neither can be reduced to the other, but in this paper I show that teams for TBL can be formed instantaneously during the first lecture in such an efficient and transparent way that it becomes comparable to the simplicity that makes PI so attractive. This process can be applied successfully prima facie (during the first day of class) to any group of any composition and size but is particularly effective if coupled with a series of classroom activities that can be used in the first lecture to jumpstart TBL in a CS0/CS1/CS2 type of course.