Toward an Optimal Pedagogy for Teamwork

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Abstract

Teamwork and collaboration are increasingly listed as core competencies for undergraduate health professions education. Despite the clear mandate for teamwork training, the optimal method for providing that training is much less certain. In this Perspective, the authors propose a three-level classification of pedagogical approaches to teamwork training based on the presence of two key learning factors: interdependent work and explicit training in teamwork. In this classification framework, level 1—minimal team learning—is where learners work in small groups but neither of the key learning factors is present. Level 2—implicit team learning—engages learners in interdependent learning activities but does not include an explicit focus on teamwork. Level 3—explicit team learning—creates environments where teams work interdependently toward common goals and are given explicit instruction and practice in teamwork. The authors provide examples that demonstrate each level. They then propose that the third level of team learning, explicit team learning, represents a best practice approach in teaching teamwork, highlighting their experience with an explicit team learning course at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Finally, they discuss several challenges to implementing explicit team-learning-based curricula: the lack of a common teamwork model on which to anchor such a curriculum; the question of whether the knowledge, skills, and attitudes acquired during training would be transferable to the authentic clinical environment; and effectively evaluating the impact of explicit team learning.

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