Background: We implemented team learning, an instructional method that fosters small-group learning, in an evidence-based medicine (EBM) course. Our goal was to align instructional methods with EBM practices.
Description: Team learning provides an alternative to lectures in large-group settings. It involves out-of-class preparation followed by in-class readiness assurance tests and group application activities. We used the method to teach a 7-week course in EBM for 2nd-year students. We evaluated the course using student performance, external observation, and student focus groups.
Evaluation: Students performed well on all written assignments, indicating attainment of learning objectives. Observation data revealed a high level of student engagement in the classroom. Focus group data indicated that desired learning behaviors tended to occur but that many students devalued the method.
Conclusion: Team learning served as a useful framework, enabling a large enrollment course to have small-group experiences without large numbers of faculty. The method fostered individual accountability and promoted teamwork--behaviors consistent with effective EBM practice. Students' lack of enthusiasm for the method may stem from their comfort with didactic lectures.