The educational theory basis of team-based learning

Med Teach. 2012;34(10):796-801. doi: 10.3109/0142159X.2012.687120. Epub 2012 May 30.


Background: Health care providers require the ability to use critical thinking skills and work effectively in a team as a part of an overall set of competencies. Therefore, educational programs should use appropriate methods based in educational theory to effectively graduate learners with these abilities. Team-based learning (TBL) is a method that has been introduced in healthcare education to foster critical thinking skills while students work in high functioning teams.

Aims: This article will show how TBL follows the principles of constructivist learning theory.

Method: The principles of constructivist learning theory are discussed in relation to the teaching method of team-based learning. The effectiveness of TBL in healthcare education is then reviewed.

Results: TBL is learner centered with the teacher acting as an expert facilitator and also provides students with opportunities to expose inconsistencies between their current understandings and new experiences thus stimulating development of new personal mental frameworks built upon previous knowledge. The learning is active using relevant problems and group interaction. Teamwork skills are strengthened by focused reflection on new experiences during the group sessions and on teamwork success by providing feedback to group members.

Conclusion: Since these aspects are all essential components of constructivist educational theory, TBL is solidly grounded in the theory and is a promising method to strengthen healthcare education.

MeSH terms

  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Education, Medical*
  • Humans
  • Models, Educational*
  • Teaching / methods*