Why Team-Based Learning Works in the Workplace

Even if you weren’t into science, the lab portion of class was usually interesting, memorable and fun. In teams of two or four, depending on the structure of the lab tables, you teamed up with a partner (or three) and put theory into action. You all laughed about the white coats and how silly everyone looked in goggles.

During labs we could wind up with expanding foam, a puff of smoke, cool colors swishing around the beaker, or the occasional mini explosion. Aside from the excitement of experimentation, the best part was that you didn’t have to go it alone. Your investment was matched by your partner or partners – you were in it together.

Having others invested in your outcome can make a huge impact on learning retention. That’s why team-based learning works.

Sure, team-based learning lends itself to the K-12 and college classrooms – even online courses – but what about working professionals? There’s a strong case for designing team-based learning in the workplace.

The Case for Team-Based Learning in the Workplace.


Collaboration requires teamwork and communication. Professionals working in a small group may come from different backgrounds and levels of experience in the company, but each one brings a unique and valuable perspective. Their combined knowledge and various strengths can be more integrative than relying on information from one source: the instructor/facilitator.

The difference between covering content versus applying that content to real-world, familiar scenarios is an important distinction. In the workplace, learning can be enhanced by application within a team-based setting.

Peer-Led Learning

Many people retain knowledge through experience or because they can personally relate to the information presented. It’s one of the reasons TED Talks are so popular. Ordinary people with riveting theories reveal to an audience what they’ve learned from their experiences, then providing anecdotal and factual evidence to support their premise.

Peer-led learning works in a similar way, especially in the workplace. Someone from the marketing department might feel more comfortable asking a programmer from the IT department how the company’s SharePoint works, versus sitting through a lengthy slide presentation. Instructional designers can use this natural peer camaraderie to their advantage when including team-based strategies in their course design.

Greater Investment Equals Improved Outcomes

Working professionals are used to prioritizing. It’s a constant strategizing effort – balancing what’s most important to them, such as staying late to hit a project deadline versus catching their kid’s last home basketball game.

They are also used to ramping up efforts for those who depend on them. If colleagues on a team depend on each other to master a new skill or learn how to perform an important task, chances are good they will take the time necessary to carry their weight; i.e., they will invest their individual efforts to ensure the success of the group.

When adult learners understand the value in the application of what they’re learning, and they appreciate how the outcomes affect others, the combination magnifies learning retention.

Resources for Team-Based Instruction

If team-based learning interests you from a personal or design perspective, check out the links below for information and ideas of how to implement the principles in your instructional design.

How It Works – the Principles of Team-Based Learning:


Why It Works:


How to Implement It: