The Team-Based Cycle of Instruction (TBCI) is a six-step instructional delivery protocol that helps teachers better organize resources, keep momentum high, maintain a smooth lesson flow, and engage students, particularly those with special needs. during an instructional period. The TBCI was developed by faculty at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education Center for Technology in Education

 “It gives teachers a structured way to plan and deliver their lessons.”  Tiffany Norman, Instructional Coach

Using the TBCI, teachers employ routines to open the class, present concepts, facilitate group work, and monitor progress.  All work is driven by a student-friendly daily Challenge Question, which each child is expected to answer at the end of a lesson.

Teachers report that this structure helps them to focus instruction and keep students on task – both of which produce stronger outcomes.



“I think the format of the lesson is so well structured that the predictability of it has helped students with disabilities be a little more comfortable in the classroom.” Meaghan Hungerford, Supervisor of Elementary Education in Charles County.

The six stages of the TBCI are described below:

SET-Up: the teacher prompts students to be organized, ready to learn, activate prior knowledge, review vocabulary, and to predict answers to the daily Challenge Question.

Presentation: Teachers implement a wide-range of strategies that stimulate interest in and understanding of the content being presented and the accompanying Challenge Question

Learning Together:  Students work in High Performing Teams to review content and apply understandings.

Just for Me: Students practice independently to determine what they understand and where they need support.

Assessment: Teachers use a brief formative assessment to determine students’ understanding of key concepts and answers related to the Challenge Question, giving the teacher “just-in-time” information on who understands what was taught.

WRAP-Up: Teachers conclude the lesson as students organize resources for transition, record homework assignments, decide what is to be shared with family members, and determine their High Performant Team ratings for the period.


“We saw across the board humongous gains for all of our students, including our special ed students, including our ELL students.  We had teachers who the county average for growth was twelve points of growth // from the fall to the spring, and in our SpEd classes we had thirty, forty points of growth.” Christine Kernozik, Instructional Specialist for Elementary, Math, Charles County Public Schools

The TBCI also offers other structures to maximize learning:

Grouping Structures – Teachers are encouraged to organize their students into High Performance Learning Teams by considering student characteristics, such as achievement, ethnicity, motivation, leadership, gender and special needs so that all the teams have an equal opportunity to succeed and learn. Grouping structures can include: community (whole class), pairs leading to Power Partners, Cluster Groups, Cooperative Teams, and High Performance Learning Teams.  During Learning Together, Assessment, and Just for Me , the teacher is able to configure flexible teaching groups (e.g., homogeneous, interest, or enrichment) based on the particular learning needs of the students to differentiate instruction. .  At other times, the teacher may meet with the whole community or students may work in one of the other structures previously mentioned.  There are also times when the students may work independently.

Teaching Protocols – The TBCI offers explicit step-by-step guidelines that structure learning experiences to ensure time is used efficiently and purposefully.  The TBCI helps educators remain focused on the specific teaching competencies and the following particular team-based instructional and behavioral strategies:

Twelve to Excel:  A set of management protocols which includes 12 specific strategies for effectively managing the Learning Community, Cluster Groups, Cooperative Groups, Power Partners, and High Performance Learning Teams.  Examples include the Zero-Noise Signal to manage transitions and the Thumbs Up/Down signal, which prompts students to show quickly if they understand a concept.

View Thumbs Up/Down Signal Video Here

View Zero Noise Signal Video Here

Community Learning Expectations:   Expectations for behavior and quality work are identified by the teacher.  These Expectations are considered “non-negotiable” and are applied to each student. The following are examples of basic Expectations for a smoothly running instructional period:

  • Arrive to the Learning Community on time for all activities.
  • Complete tasks on time.
  • Keep team space and resources organized.
  • Maintain Learning Community Standards and rules.



Learning Community Standards:   Most teachers share a set of school and/or class rules with their students, particularly in the beginning of the year.  In addition to these rules, a TBCI class incorporates a set of standards to guide the learning community in all aspects of working together, whether as a large group, team, partnership, or contributing individual. These standards are direct, specific and, most importantly, positive.  Students process or assess how well they have kept the standards during class work activities. Some examples of standards include:

  • Listen actively to understand
  • Engage with enthusiasm
  • Appreciate differences..”Put Ups Only”
  • Offer help willingly

If students are successful as a class working on the standards, then they will meet the teacher’s expectations.

View the Learning Community Standards Video Here

High Performing Teaming Strategies:  High Performance Learning Teams are formed to maximize the performance of the team, partnerships, as well as individuals.


Technology Tools –  Teachers are encouraged to infuse technology-rich resources into the TBCI to increase engagement and to help students grasp more complex concepts quickly. That might include taking advantage of a one-to-one device program or simply utilizing a computer and LCD projector or mobile lab effectively.  Teachers are encouraged to use technology for whole class instruction, small group instruction, team learning, and center-based work.  If students have individual devices, teachers are encouraged to put assignments, surveys, and other information on the devices and have students do research on them.

“We had a teacher, I believe, that said it best.  When it came to her planning, she always thought of it as what she was doing, and through this program it has now become what she is expecting the students to do”. Christine Kernozik, Instructional Specialist for Elementary Math, Charles County Public Schools