Best Evidence Medical and Health Professional Education

The effectiveness of team-based learning on learning outcomes in health professions education: A Best Evidence in Medical Education Systematic Review


Team-based learning (TBL) is an active learning strategy currently being implemented in health professions education in response to a growing desire to see students become more engaged in their learning. However, the effectiveness of TBL on improving learning outcomes has not been fully assessed. By systematically evaluating the effects of TBL in health professions, this review aims to provide educators with a comprehensive synthesis of the current evidence to guide decision-making regarding the implementation of TBL into their curricula.

This review used a systematic prospectively registered protocol. Following title and full text screening, fourteen primary studies were included that compared TBL with a more traditional teaching method at the undergraduate and postgraduate level. The effects of TBL were assessed based on a modified Kirkpatrick framework of learning outcomes.

Seven studies showed statistically significant improvements in knowledge outcomes favouring TBL, 4 studies showed no differences.  For the remaining 3 studies, authors concluded effectiveness of TBL but did not provide sufficient data to allow for statistical comparison between groups. Despite general improvements in knowledge, only one of seven studies reporting on learner reaction showed a significant difference favoring TBL.  In one study, participants preferred the comparator (i.e., small group learning).  No trends in outcomes arose from the use of a particular comparator or population. This review demonstrates that despite mixed reactions from learners, TBL has potential to increase learning among health professions learners.

Review Group

Anna Oswald (lead reviewer), Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, University of Alberta, Canada

Mim FatmiBSc student, University of Alberta

Sandra CampbellPublic Services Librarian and Library Liaison to Medicine, University of Alberta 

Lisa HartlingAssistant Professor, Department of Paediatrics, University of Alberta


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