Usually, a full classroom session must be devoted to the RAP. This is a worthwhile time investment because it can then be assumed that all of the students have acquired sufficient knowledge about the relevant topics of study. This knowledge also comprises an essential basis for active participation in the teams.
It is often mistakenly assumed that TBL only consists of the RAP. On its own, the RAP may be didactically valuable, but its full potential is only realized when teams in possession of the knowledge it has provided have to work actively together. To facilitate this, TBL poses questions according to the 4S Principle. These questions are based on the conditions that:
- The teams must solve significant problems, for which there are no simple and clear answers
- All teams must solve the same problems
- A specific, short answer can be provided
- All teams must be able to simultaneously (i.e. within the time period of a single course session) present their results.
As with the RAP, each characteristic of the 4S assignments is decisive from a didactical point of view:
- If the nature of the question is not complex, one must generally consider whether heterogeneous teams need to call upon their “intellectual horsepower” (Sibley/Ostafichuk 2014, p. 67) to answer it.
- The one-for-all problem is the basis for in-depth discussions between the teams within the larger group as well as a competitive orientation of teams, the latter of which is conducive to group cohesion.
- The more quickly an answer can be formulated by a team, the more clearly apparent the differences in approaches to solving a problem become. This situation presents opportunities for deeper discussions in the larger group. Furthermore, by submitting concise answers – for example, determining the position of a fact within a knowledge map or the selection of a multiple choice answer – it is possible for teams to present their answers simultaneously.
- This simultaneity of responses serves to prevent teams from adapting their earlier chosen answers upon hearing those of other teams, for example if they feel that other teams have come up with a more appropriate solution.
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