The Impact of Team-Based Learning on Medical Students' Academic Performance

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Since team-based learning (TBL) was introduced as a medical education strategy in 2001, few studies have explored its impact on learning outcomes, particularly as measured by performance on examinations. Educators considering implementing TBL need evidence of its effectiveness. This study was conducted to determine whether student performance on examinations is affected by participation in TBL and whether TBL benefits lower- or higher-performing students.


The authors analyzed the performance of second-year medical students on 28 comprehensive course examinations over two consecutive academic years (2003–2004, 2004–2005) at the Boonshoft School of Medicine.


The 178 students (86 men, 92 women) included in the study achieved 5.9% (standard deviation [SD] 5.5) higher mean scores on examination questions that assessed their knowledge of pathology-based content learned using the TBL strategy compared with questions assessing pathology-based content learned via other methods (P < .001, t test). Students whose overall academic performance placed them in the lowest quartile of the class benefited more from TBL than did those in the highest quartile. Lowest-quartile students' mean scores were 7.9% (SD 6.0) higher on examination questions related to TBL modules than examination questions not related to TBL modules, whereas highest-quartile students' mean scores were 3.8% (SD 5.4) higher (P = .001, two-way analysis of variance).


Medical students' higher performance on examination questions related to course content learned through TBL suggests that TBL enhances mastery of course content. Students in the lowest academic quartile may benefit more than highest-quartile students from the TBL strategy.



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