Team-based learning is the key that one Fayetteville State University professor is using to open up and involve her criminal justice students  in ways that expand on the Universal Design for Learning  principle of engagement.

Dr. Sarah Brightman, assistant professor of criminal justice, began focusing on a redesign of her Victimology course, and later, Race, Class and Gender in Criminal Justice course after attending a redesign workshop sponsored by the College Star program. 

One of the UDL pillars is providing multiple ways of engagement to stimulate purposeful and engaged students. “I wanted to motivate my students to get their work done, come to class prepared and ready to interact with others,” Brightman said. “I also believe working in groups will help them to be better team players after they graduate.”

Each semester Brightman divides her class into teams of five, using demographic information to ensure that each team is diverse in terms of factors like age, GPA and activities on and off campus. Students are given a significant task to complete before Monday’s class and meet as a team for discussion for timed intervals before sharing their discussion with the whole class.

Brightman uses a variety of techniques to ensure everyone participates including data scavenger hunts and Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique (IF-AT) cards that facilitate taking quizzes as a group. In addition, teams do midterm and final reviews of each other.

Brightman acknowledges that this approach is a lot of work for the faculty member who has to plan ahead and be adaptive and flexible each class rather than delivering a standard lecture. “But it works, and the feedback I get from students is really positive,” she said, “they enjoy being exposed to different perspectives on the course material. It also helps avoid a situation where students are told to read something and then they don’t do anything with it.”

As a result of her successes with team-based learning, Brightman is now serving as a coach to other Fayetteville State faculty members interesting in employing a similar approach. She has shared some of her techniques and her syllabus description. She also meets with the group and answers questions via email as they come up from the group. 

Brightman said in the future she would like to expand on the UDL principle of action and expression and give students more options when it comes to demonstrating that they have a grasp of the course material. “I let students use written projects and poster presentations but there may be room for power point and on-line visual demonstrations to show they grasp a theory,” she said. “I feel good about what I’ve done with team-based learning,” she said, “and I want to bring all three components of UDL into my classrooms.”