Educator Spotlight - Summer 2011
Dr. Frank A.
you attended the 2009 ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition in
Phoenix, Arizona, you may remember a
Presidential Symposium held on Team-Based Learning"¢ (TBL). The
presenter readily admitted that prior to adopting TBL, half his
students did not attend class, and those who did read the paper,
slept, chatted, and doodled. Is it any wonder that he wanted a more
effective way of reaching millennial students?
That presenter was Dr. Frank A. Scannapieco, Chair of
the Department of Oral Biology at the University at
Buffalo (UB) School of Dental Medicine. In the mid-90s he
attended a workshop offered by Dr. Clyde Herreid, a colleague in
the Department of Biological Sciences at UB who promoted
educational innovation. There he learned about the work of Larry
Michaelsen, the creator of TBL, and he left inspired to give this
new educational strategy a try. Soon he was applying the method in
courses as diverse as preventive dentistry, clinical research
methodology, and microbiology, with dramatic results.
"I had 100% attendance, the students always read the
assigned material, and the number and quality of their questions
rose exponentially," he told the crowd in Phoenix. "I used to get
two questions-are there any handouts, and will it be on the test?
Now I get loads of questions, and teaching is much more
To achieve this level of success right out of the gate,
Dr. Scannapieco devoted the better part of his summer to preparing
his first TBL course. He did not alter the content, but TBL
required that he locate appropriate readings and write the multiple
mini-assessments that TBL uses to monitor and reward preparation
outside of class. He also spent time studying the method itself and
observing its use in the classroom. "TBL can be time-consuming up
front," Dr. Scannapieco concedes, "but if you prepare, it is a very
satisfying way to teach."
In 2009, UB completed a review of its curriculum and
elected to incorporate more case-based learning. Dr. Scannapieco
took the lead in developing a course for first-year students that
consolidated earlier course offerings and incorporated both TBL and
a modified version of
problem-based learning (PBL). UB uses a mixture of learning
strategies, with individual professors incorporating cases in
different ways. Dr. Scannapieco personally likes the versatility of
TBL. An individual faculty member can implement it, whether or not
an entire department or school embraces the strategy, and in
contrast to PBL, it does not require a faculty facilitator for each
team or group of students. In an era of faculty shortages and
educational cost cutting, those advantages may be significant on
campuses that are looking to improve student engagement without
assuming huge financial burdens.