Team-based learning versus traditional didactic lectures in teaching clinical biochemistry at King Abdulaziz University; learning outcomes and student satisfaction

Biochem Mol Biol Educ. 2021 Mar 17. doi: 10.1002/bmb.21501. Online ahead of print.


Team-based learning (TBL), which encourages students to become active rather than passive learners, has gained world-wide popularity in medical education due to its proven positive effect on more than one aspect of the educational process. At King Abdulaziz University (KAU), clinical biochemistry is still taught in the form of didactic lectures, and while there is a need for introducing active learning, student learning response from TBL has not been explored. In this quasi-experimental non-equivalent comparison group design, we compared learning outcomes and student satisfaction in a clinical biochemistry course taught either via TBL to second year clinical nutrition students (n = 33) or via traditional lectures to same year nursing students (n = 70). The same summative post-course exam was given to both student groups to assess impact on learning. Focus group discussion and a self-administered questionnaire were used to gain insight into clinical nutrition students' level of satisfaction with TBL. In the post-course exam results of recall and reasoning questions, nursing students (Lectures) scored an average of 38% ± 2.4 in the recall questions while clinical nutrition students (TBL) scored higher with an average of 74.5% ± 4.3 (p < .0001). In reasoning questions, nursing students (Lectures) scored lower than clinical nutrition students (TBL), 23% ± 2.7 versus 40% ± 4.2, respectively (p < .001). In comparing results of pre- and post-test recall questions within each group, there was no significant difference between pre- and post-results for nursing students (Lectures) while clinical nutrition students (TBL) showed a significant increase in post-versus pre-test results of 71% versus 41% (p < .0001). In the final summative post-course exam, nursing students scored an average of 60% ± 2.4 while clinical nutrition students (TBL) scored significantly higher with an average of 78% ± 2.4 (p < .001). Qualitative studies revealed that accountability and team-work were positive aspects perceived by students regarding TBL. The study showed that 84% of surveyed students enjoyed the experience, however, when asked about challenges self-study was their main challenge. TBL proved to be a successful, learner-centered approach for clinical nutrition students at KAU in their clinical biochemistry course resulting in improved learning outcomes and higher student satisfaction when compared with traditional didactic methods of teaching.

Keywords: King Abdulaziz University (KAU); active learning; clinical biochemistry; clinical nutrition; nucleic acids; team-based learning (TBL).