Teaching neurology to medical students with a simplified version of team-based learning

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To compare the effect of a simplified version of team-based learning (sTBL), an active learning/small group instructional strategy, with that of the traditionally used small group interactive seminars on the acquisition of knowledge and clinical reasoning (CR) skills.


Third- and fourth-year medical students (n = 122) were randomly distributed into 2 groups. A crossover design was used in which 2 neurologic topics were taught by sTBL and 2 by small group interactive seminars. Knowledge was assessed with a multiple-choice question examination (MCQE), CR skills with a key feature problem examination (KFPE). Questionnaires were used for further methodologic evaluation.


No group differences were found in the MCQE results. sTBL instruction of the topic “acute altered mental status” was associated with a significantly better student performance in the KFPE (p = 0.008), with no differences in the other 3 topics covered. Although both teaching methods were highly rated by the students, a clear majority voted for sTBL as their preferred future teaching method.


sTBL served as an equivalent alternative to small group interactive seminars for imparting knowledge and teaching CR skills, and was particularly advantageous for teaching CR in the setting of a complex neurologic topic. Furthermore, students reported a strong preference for the sTBL approach, making it a promising tool for effectively teaching neurology.

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