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Team-based learning in the gross anatomy laboratory improves academic performance and students' attitudes toward teamwork

Authors

  • Tiffany W. Huitt,

    1. Department of Physical Therapy, University of Central Arkansas, Conway, Arkansas
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  • Anita Killins,

    1. Department of Physical Therapy, University of Central Arkansas, Conway, Arkansas
    2. Department of Physical Therapy, Harding University, Searcy, Arkansas
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  • William S. Brooks

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology, School of Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama
    • Correspondence to: Dr. William Brooks, Department of Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 1720 2nd Ave. S, Volker Hall 228, Birmingham, AL 35294-0019, USA. E-mail: wbrooks@uab.edu

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Abstract

As the healthcare climate shifts toward increased interdisciplinary patient care, it is essential that students become accomplished at group problem solving and develop positive attitudes toward teamwork. Team-based learning (TBL) has become a popular approach to medical education because of its ability to promote active learning, problem-solving skills, communication, and teamwork. However, its documented use in the laboratory setting and physical therapy education is limited. We used TBL as a substitute for one-third of cadaveric dissections in the gross anatomy laboratories at two Doctor of Physical Therapy programs to study its effect on both students' perceptions and academic performance. We surveyed students at the beginning and completion of their anatomy course as well as students who had previously completed a traditional anatomy course to measure the impact of TBL on students' perceptions of teamwork. We found that the inclusion of TBL in the anatomy laboratory improves students' attitudes toward working with peers (P < 0.01). Non-TBL students had significantly lower attitudes toward teamwork (P < 0.01). Comparison of academic performance between TBL and non-TBL students revealed that students who participated in TBL scored significantly higher on their first anatomy practical examination and on their head/neck written examination (P < 0.001). When asked to rate their role in a team, a 10.5% increase in the mean rank score for Problem Solver resulted after the completion of the TBL-based anatomy course. Our data indicate that TBL is an effective supplement to cadaveric dissection in the laboratory portion of gross anatomy, improving both students' grades and perceptions of teamwork. Anat Sci Educ 8: 95–103. © 2014 American Association of Anatomists.

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