Applying established guidelines to team-based learning programs in medical schools: a systematic review

Acad Med. 2014 Apr;89(4):678-88. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000000162.


Purpose: Team-based learning (TBL), a structured form of small-group learning, has gained popularity in medical education in recent years. A growing number of medical schools have adopted TBL in a variety of combinations and permutations across a diversity of settings, learners, and content areas. The authors conducted this systematic review to establish the extent, design, and practice of TBL programs within medical schools to inform curriculum planners and education designers.

Method: The authors searched the MEDLINE, PubMed, Web of Knowledge, and ERIC databases for articles on TBL in undergraduate medical education published between 2002 and 2012. They selected and reviewed articles that included original research on TBL programs and assessed the articles according to the seven core TBL design elements (team formation, readiness assurance, immediate feedback, sequencing of in-class problem solving, the four S's [significant problem, same problem, specific choice, and simultaneous reporting], incentive structure, and peer review) described in established guidelines.

Results: The authors identified 20 articles that satisfied the inclusion criteria. They found significant variability across the articles in terms of the application of the seven core design elements and the depth with which they were described. The majority of the articles, however, reported that TBL provided a positive learning experience for students.

Conclusions: In the future, faculty should adhere to a standardized TBL framework to better understand the impact and relative merits of each feature of their program.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence*
  • Curriculum*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / standards*
  • Educational Measurement
  • Female
  • Group Processes*
  • Guidelines as Topic*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • New South Wales
  • Problem-Based Learning / organization & administration
  • Schools, Medical / organization & administration
  • Students, Medical
  • Young Adult