Across the country many medical schools are switching to a style of teaching called Team Based Learning, or some version thereof. This type of teaching involves breaking students into groups to discuss case-based questions and then coming together as a class to discuss them together. While I’ve never read the studies myself, supposedly this style of learning is proven to provide better retention of the material.
I am a member of the very last class to be taught the traditional, primarily lecture style at my school. The class following mine is being taught entirely in TBL format. As this year has progressed, many of our course directors have switched our blocks into the new style of learning as well. I’m not sure why; I can only surmise that they’d already created the lecture plans and so went ahead and implemented the new course style. This was not met by complete acceptance amongst my class mates.
All of our lectures are recorded and then posted online. Many of the students opt to stay home and watch the lectures at their leisure. They’ve created a schedule that works best for them and has been working for them for a year and a half now. When they were told that not only were the lectures going away but that they were also required to come into class in order to complete the graded quizzes that accompany the TBL sessions, a certain level of panic swept through the class.
This panic led to multiple cries for a reversion to the old curriculum, and when those requests were not met, there many complaints about the assigned readings. All of these things made me wonder how adaptable medical students really are. Theoretically we need to be extremely adaptable. We are going to be confronted with a lot of situations once rounds hit that won’t fit the textbook presentation of disease, and we will have to adapt. We are going to be learning under different attendings as our rounds change, and we will have to adapt. We are going to be faced with different personalities in our patients and coworkers, and we will have to adapt.
More than the general lack of ability to go with the flow, what concerns me most is that we were presented with the studies that proved TBL sessions improve retention and were even presented with data that the courses taught in TBL style at our institution resulted in improved STEP1 scores. Yet there continued to be much pushback to this style of learning. Throughout our education we are taught to practice evidence-based medicine, and what our institution is doing is practicing evidence-based teaching. We can’t be so averse to change, especially when it means stepping out of our comfort zones. This is a skill that we all must embrace for the rest of our careers, and today with our medical education is a great place to start.