Team-Based Learning

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1. Objectives

  1. Define the essential components of a team-based learning exercise.
  2. Compare and contrast team-based learning with other forms of learning.
  3. List the 4 S’s of team-based learning.
  4. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of team-based learning.
  5. Create a team-based learning exercise.

2. Preparation in Advance

Define your concept of “team-based learning” and articulate 3 ways it differs from other small group learning.

3. The Module

In this module you will learn about team-based learning (TBL) and how to implement it in your teaching. TBL is not another name for small groups, and it’s not the same as problem-based learning (PBL). Students can work in teams in any of these, but TBL is different.

So what is it?

Video: Listen as Dr. Borowitz describes TBL in more detail.

4. Application of the Module

Compare and contrast the role of the instructor and the students in team-based learning. For more details, visit the TBL collaborative webpage (

5. Next Steps and Peer Coaching

Now that you have completed the module, define 2 topics that may be well-suited to the TBL format; name 2 that may not. How did your thinking change after completing the module?

6. Summary Points

We will wrap up this module by comparing and contrasting TBL to other forms of small group learning

  • In problem-based learning, the groups decide what they want to learn; in TBL, it is the instructor that decides the content of each component of the process.
  • In many small groups, different students get asked about different aspects of a problem; in TBL, all teams work on the same problem.
  • Many small group discussions center around open-ended questions; in TBL the problems are very focused and students give specific answers that are then critiqued in open discussion.

Finally, it’s worth reviewing the overall structure of TBL.


  • Books

    Michaelsen LK Parmelee DX, McMahon KK and Levine RE (eds) Team-Based learning for health professions education: a guide to using small groups for improving learning. 1st edition, Stylus Publishing LLC, Sterling VA 2008

    Sibley J and Ostafichuk P Getting started with team-based learning. 1st edition, Stylus publishing LLC Sterling VA 2014

    Hawkins D (ed) A team-based learning guide for faculty in the health professions. AuthorHouse LLC, Bloomington IN 2014


    Fatmi M, Hartling L, Hillier, T, Campbell S and Oswald A. The effectiveness of team-based learning on learning outcomes in health professions education: BEME Guide No. 30 Medical Teacher 2013; 35: 31608-e1624.

    Searle NS, Haidet P, Kelly A, Schneider VF, Seidel CL, Richards BF. Team learning in medical education: experiences at ten institutions. Acad Med 2003;78:S55-S5

    Thompson BM, SChnieder VF, Haidet P, Levine RE, McMahon KK, Perkowski LC, Richards BF. Team-based learning at ten medical schools: two years later. Medical Education 2007 41:250-7.

    Parmelee D. Team-based learning: moving forward in curriculum innovation. Med Teach 2010;32:105-107.

    Parmelee DX, DeStephen D, Borges NJ. Medical students’ attitudes about team-based learning in a pre-clinical curriculum. Med Educ Online 2009;14:1.

    Parmelee DX, Michaelsen LK. Twelve tips for doing effective team-based learning (TBL).Med Teach 2010;32:118-122.

    Hunt DP, Haidet P, Coverdale JH Richard B The effect of using team learning in an evidence-based medicine course for medical students. Teaching and Learning in Medicine 15(2)2003; 131-139

    Letassy NA, Fugate SE, Medina MS, Stroup JS Britton ML Using team-based learning in an endocrine module taught across two campuses. Am J Pharm Educ 2008; 72:103

    Conway SE, Johnson JL Ripley TL. Integration of team-based learning strategies into a cardiovascular module. Am J Pharmaceutical Education 2010 74(2): 35

    Web Resources this site has links to videos, a much larger bibliography, and many other miscellaneous TBL resources This is an introductory chapter from the Michaelsen, Sweet and Parmelee’s e-Book called Team-Based Learning: Small Group Learning’s Next Big Step and Michael Sweet gives an all day workshop on TBL a 12 minute video illustrating and describing TBL

About the Author

mjbMichael J. Borowitz, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor of Pathology and Deputy Director for Education, Dept of Pathology
Member of the IEE Managing Board
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Module Editor

Joseph Cofrancesco Jr., MD, MPH, FACP
Director of the Institute for Excellence in Education
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Institute for Excellence in Education Professor of Medicine
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine