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Team Based Learning

Watch our video to find out how we have introduced Team-Based Learning in Pharmacy.

Why have we introduced it?

Curriculum 2012 has been designed to develop the knowledge, skills and capabilities needed by pharmacists in practise in the 21st Century.

It is based on sound educational theory and was informed by employer needs, for example developing the capabilities to be effective communicators, problem solvers and self-learners who can work effectively in teams and in a professional way.  We want our students to enjoy their learning experiences and learn in a fun and interactive way whilst developing their team-working and inter-personal skills and of course developing a sustainable knowledge-base and the ability to apply that knowledge in an authentic and meaningful way.

We believe that team-based learning (TBL) is a more effective and enjoyable way of learning than traditional methods. It is structured in such a way that it motivates students to prepare for class and rewards them and their team for doing so. There are team activities that develop the inter-personal and collaborative skills that are essential in a multi-disciplinary healthcare environment in which they work as future pharmacists.

Below are some FAQs which you may find useful to read.

How does TBL work?

Students are divided into teams of 5-7 using a process that ensures each team is balanced with students with different characteristic, skills and backgrounds. Essentially there are 3 phases – guided reading before class, a ‘readiness-assurance process’ and an ‘Application phase’.

At the start of a TBL unit, students are provided with guided reading approximately a week before the class and we ask them to study this in advance.

When they come to class they take an individual 10 question multiple choice readiness assurance check. This ensures students come to class having learnt something about the topic in advance which leaves more in-class time for learning how to use this new knowledge. This short test motivates students to come to class and rewards them for their preparation.

Students redo the same test again as a team using a specially designed scratch-card which provides them with immediate feedback as to whether they have the answer correct or not. The energy in the room during this activity is incredible; there is a lot of team discussion as students work together to decide on their answer. Students also learn from each other, and this is good thing. To have to explain a concert or principle to a known peer in a safe and supportive environment helps to develop a deeper understanding of the issue and promotes sustained learning.

During this phase we analyse the results from the individual test and are able to give informed instruction and feedback to the group on concepts that they may have misunderstood.

The next phase is for the team to start applying their new knowledge to solve a range of pharmacy-related problems. Team members work together to discuss a significant problem, this is open book so they can use books or the web-resources. All the teams work on the same case and when all are ready each team simultaneous reports their chosen outcome via a laminated letter which might, for example, represent a drug therapy or a diagnosis. The instructor then facilitates discussion between the groups as their justify their answers.

How do the students benefit?

TBL engages students in the learning process in a structured way making learning more interesting, sustainable and enjoyable.

We believe that TBL is perfect for developing future healthcare professionals. It has the capability to develop inter-personal, team-working and critical thinking skills, and by using these methods we hope to develop motivated learners who are effective problem solvers, critical thinkers and who possess the skills to become life-long learners.

What if students don't prepare/take it seriously

Students soon learn that failing to prepare adequately not only lets their team down but also results in a less effective learning experience.

We have introduced mechanisms to make it difficult for students to do this. All students are reminded of the Code of Conduct for Pharmacy Students that they each sign at the start of each academic year.

Students trying to circumvent the learning process will find that this results in much poorer performances in individual end of stage assessments, which students must still pass regardless of performance in the ongoing team or individual checks.

How is it going so far?

It is going very well so far, much better than we’d hoped for at this stage. Students are coming to class prepared and at a much higher level than in the past.

They are much more engaged with the group activities during class and are asking and answering questions that we’d expect from students further ahead in the course. There is so much energy in the room during the team activities followed by some deep, thoughtful and informed discussions facilitated by a member of academic staff.

Have there been any problems?

As you’d expect with a completely new learning strategy, there are few administrative issues that we’ve needed to overcome. We are in regular contact with student representatives (the Staff-Student Liaison Committee) and are responsive to their ideas and suggestions to improve the process further.

We have also asked independent researchers to carry out some focus groups to identify what students like and dislike about the learning process and as a result will make some minor changes to the timetabling next year to allow more student preparation time and introduce some drop-in sessions to support any student who may be struggling with a particular topic.

Suggested improvements from our students

  • TBL exercises should have a time limit
  • Reduce length of session - 3 hours for the workshop are too long
  • TBL room is not good for self assessments
  • Some of the MCQs were tricky
  • I think that the time should be well defined between the iRAT, tRAT and discussion

Student Views

Read what our current students have to say about TBL.

MPharm 4yr student

TBL has been one of the major strengths in this module it helped me learn and understand the workshops as we were in groups.
This module should continue with iRats and tRats as this enables the student to prepare properly in advance for the workshop, therefore student can contribute fairly within the team.

It was organised really well, I really enjoyed the TBL groups, my group was really good. The sessions were well set up and the facilities were fab.

A great thank you to our lecturers they were awesome especially Mr Tweddell and Prof Purvis, the TBL sessions were so interactive and fun with them teaching. The practice sessions for the OSCE were really good for practice and allowed me to identify the areas that needed improving. TBL -learning the stuff before coming for the workshops, was really good because more people knew actually what the session was about and what the lecturers were covering. I felt as though we were learning more from the sessions!

The module is the best! TBL is way better than outside class group work. Preparatory materials were good.
TBL was a great way to interact with the group and also made sure we attempted pre-reading. It was a great start and finish to the module and I found it was a really helpful tool in learning.

Personally I liked the way this module was taught and the new TBL style of learning should be implemented across all stages of the pharmacy course. Lectures should be scrapped as they are not the most effective style of teaching/learning; even the most ardent students lose interest after a few minutes.

MPharm 4yr student

You get to apply your knowledge, you learn how to back your thinking up with facts. You know where to look for facts so before you go in you are prepared and then afterwards you get the chance to think over it.  Like now I know everything that I learnt yesterday but if I had to go for a normal exam, half of the stuff would be gone by now. Because you’re doing it as you go along and you’ve had that chance to back your knowledge up and think about it, it makes a lot more sense.

I would definitely recommend TBL because you get the chance to apply your knowledge it is a lot more active. You use three of four forms of learning and it stays in your mind a lot more and you find your performance is a lot better.

Suggested improvements

  • TBL exercises should have a time limit
  • Reduce length of session - 3 hours for the workshop are too long
  • TBL room is not good for self assessments
  • Some of the MCQs were tricky
  • I think that the time should be well defined between the iRAT, tRAT and discussion

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