Modified use of team-based learning for effective delivery of medical gross anatomy and embryology

Nagaswami S. Vasan, David O. DeFouw, Bart K. Holland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations


Team-based learning (TBL) is an instructional strategy that combines independent out-of-class preparation for in-class discussion in small groups. This approach has been successfully adopted by a number of medical educators. This strategy allowed us to eliminate anatomy lectures and incorporate small-group active learning. Although our strategy is a modified use of classical TBL, in the text, we use the standard terminology of TBL for simplicity. We have modified classical TBL to fit our curricular needs and approach. Anatomy lectures were replaced with TBL activities that required pre-class reading of assigned materials, an individual self-assessment quiz, discussion of learning issues derived from the reading assignments, and then the group retaking the same quiz for discussion and deeper learning. Students' performances and their educational experiences in the TBL format were compared with the traditional lecture approach. We offer several in-house unit exams and a final comprehensive subject exam provided by the National Board of Medical Examiners. The students performed better in all exams following the TBL approach compared to traditional lecture-based teaching. Students acknowledged that TBL encouraged them to study regularly, allowed them to actively teach and learn from peers, and this served to improve their own exam performances. We found that a TBL approach in teaching anatomy allowed us to create an active learning environment that helped to improve students' performances. Based on our experience, other preclinical courses are now piloting TBL.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-9
Number of pages7
JournalAnatomical Sciences Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anatomy
  • Histology
  • Embryology


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