Training the next generation of Africa's doctors: why medical schools should embrace the team-based learning pedagogy

BMC Med Educ. 2019 Nov 4;19(1):403. doi: 10.1186/s12909-019-1845-y.


Background: As far back as 1995, the Cape Town Declaration on training Africa's future doctor recognized the need for medical schools to adopt active-learning strategies in order to nurture holistic development of the doctor. However, medical education in Africa remains largely stuck with traditional pedagogies that emphasize the 'hard skills' such as knowledge and clinical acumen while doing little to develop 'soft skills' such as effective communication, teamwork, critical thinking or life-long learning skills. By reviewing literature on Africa's epidemiologic and demographic transitions, we establish the need for increasing the output of well-trained doctors in order to match the continent's complex current and future healthcare needs. Challenges that bedevil African medical education such as outdated curricula, limited educational infrastructure and chronic resource constraints are presented and discussed. Furthermore, increased student enrollments, a trend observed at many schools, coupled with chronic faculty shortages have inadvertently presented specific barriers against the success of small-group active-learning strategies such as Problem-Based and Case-Based Learning. We argue that Team-Based Learning (TBL) offers a robust alternative for delivering holistic medical education in the current setting. TBL is instructor-driven and embodies key attributes that foster development of both 'hard' and 'soft' skills. We elaborate on advantages that TBL is likely to bring to the African medical education landscape, including increased learner enthusiasm and creativity, accountability, peer mentorship, deep learning and better knowledge retention. As with all new pedagogical methods, challenges anticipated during initial implementation of TBL are discussed followed by the limited pilot experiences with TBL in Africa.

Conclusion: For its ability to enable a student-centered, active learning experience delivered at minimum cost, we encourage individual instructors and African medical schools at large, to adopt TBL as a complementary strategy towards realizing the goal of training Africa's fit-for-purpose doctor.

Keywords: Africa; Doctors; Medical schools; Pedagogy; Team-based learning.

MeSH terms

  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical / methods*
  • Humans
  • Problem-Based Learning
  • Schools, Medical*
  • South Africa