Parent Fellowship Focuses on Team-Based Learning

Associate Professor of Management Jane Parent is serving as Faculty Fellow at the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, where she will offer workshops and coaching to her fellow faculty members.

Working successfully in teams is a basic expectation in most organizations. So, why not introduce students to that expectation in their college courses? 

Through effective Team Based Learning, professors can do just that by employing this structured small-group learning method in which students develop and use critical thinking and collaboration skills to solve a problem. Dr. Jane Parent, Associate Professor of Management at the Girard School of Business and Faculty Fellow at the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), is offering Team Based Learning workshops and coaching to her fellow faculty members from across campus to enhance their skill at implementing this unique teaching tool into their course design. 

Team Based Learning has been shown to increase student attendance, improve their preparation for learning, increase their achievement, and develop their collaboration skills, says Parent, citing a 2008 journal article by Larry K. Michaelsen and Michael Sweet. 

Students often become bored with traditional teaching methods like lectures and PowerPoint presentations, Parent says. Team Based Learning (TBL) replaces those customs with decision-based group activities in which students use course material to solve a problem. This requires more class preparation by students and allows them to focus on analysis and critical thinking during class time. 

“Team Based Learning in their classes builds this essential skill” of teamwork that students will need in the workplace, Parent says. She uses it in all her classes and has become the campus “resident expert” in the technique. 

In January, Parent was awarded a yearlong Faculty Fellowship from Merrimack’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. As Faculty Fellow, she is sharing TBL with faculty across the campus in workshops on how to implement it, teaching circles to support faculty interested in learning more about it, and one-on-one coaching of faculty who are using TBL it in their classrooms. 

She says she’s pleased that with her assistance, Team Based Learning is being used in all four schools – Girard, the School of Education and Social Policy, the School of Science and Engineering, and the School of Liberal Arts. 

“I have thoroughly enjoyed mentoring and coaching my fellow faculty,” says Parent, who in 2012 was named an Edward G. Roddy Jr. Outstanding Teacher of the Year. 

CETL Director Dr. Kathryn Nielsen “approached me with the idea because she was familiar with some of my collaborative teaching methods involving teams and group learning,” Parent continues. “She learned of Team Based Learning in her mission to bring new, exciting pedagogical techniques to our campus.” 

The CETL’s mission is to engage faculty and others to develop and implement creative, effective, and innovative pedagogies that enhance student learning and support academic success. Its five faculty fellows have included two psychology professors and one each in history, philosophy, and management. 

Parent’s students are enthusiastic about TBL too, she says. She references comments from students in her two sections of Ethics and Social Responsibility from the spring semester: 

“Learned a lot from the team based learning and enjoyed it.” 

“Most engaging class I’ve taken at Merrimack.” 

“I like how the class involves a lot of group activities and not the everyday lectures I receive in other classes.” 

“I love the team based learning activities, they really help me understand the chapter.” 

“One of our findings indicates that as long as students perceive a fair distribution of the work, they are more team-oriented” in TBL, Parent says. 

Two research projects resulting in two papers comprise the other half of her Faculty Fellowship. She will submit the first paper to the Organizational Behavior Teaching Conference; it will provide tools and tips to implement TBL in the classroom. The second paper – for a peer-reviewed education research journal – will describe how she implemented TBL over the past year and offer evidence of its effectiveness in student learning.  

For more information on TBL, contact Dr. Parent at