Using Team Based Learning in Physician Assistant Anatomy

Wawrzyniak, Kimberly, Kyle Wawrzyniak, and Mary Tracy-Bee

Team based learning (TBL) is an educational approach where learning occurs within small groups of students actively engaged in solving problems and accomplishing academic tasks together. TBL is an alternative to traditional lecture-taught courses and is used in over 70% of medical schools.  While medical schools strongly advocate the use of this unique and successful learning approach, there are no known graduate level Physician Assistant or Nurse Anesthesia programs that utilize this learning method. TBL functions by grouping 5-7 students into teams. Teams work together to solve problems and work on activities based on the course topic. By working together, students explore different ways of viewing material and solving problems, which reinforces their understanding of the material.  Our study was performed to determine the academic value, as well as students’ attitudes toward Team Based Learning in graduate-level Physician Assistant (PA) and Nurse Anesthesia (NA) Advanced Human Anatomy Courses.  We administered a Skylight survey to determine student’s attitudes towards traditional style lecture courses versus TBL learning experiences.  While most students felt that the activity enhanced their understanding of the material, others felt that if the activity would had counted toward their grade then all students would be more engaged.  We advocate this approach as an alternative or supplemental approach to teaching anatomy in these programs.