UKZN’s Discipline of Pharmaceutical Sciences
staff who attended the Team Based Learning

UKZN’s Discipline of Pharmaceutical Sciences and the Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI) hosted a workshop on The Team Based Learning (TBL) Approach at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine campus. 

Facilitated by Professor Larry Michaelsen from the University of Central Missouri, the seminar was attended by staff from the Discipline of Pharmaceutical Sciences as well as participants from the School of Nursing and Public Health.

TBL is a form of group learning, where students learn the material, how to apply it and learn to work together to solve problems. The four components of TBL are permanent teams, readiness assurance, application activities, and peer evaluation. 

Professor Fatima Suleman, Associate Professor: Discipline of Pharmaceutical Sciences said the MEPI Grant allowed for a more detailed look at the Bachelor of Pharmacy curriculum in conjunction with changes requested by the South African Pharmacy Council with the publication of new Exit Level Outcomes for the curriculum.

‘The Discipline of Pharmaceutical Sciences decided at the end of the process to adopt TBL pedagogy for the new curriculum. With MEPI’s assistance, an expert in the area was identified and invited to present how TBL can be done.’ 

Suleman said: ‘It will not just be about covering content, but rather it focuses on ensuring that students have the opportunity to practice using course concepts to solve problems, and therefore provide them with both conceptual and practical knowledge.’ 

Michaelsen said TBL is possible even in large theatre-style classrooms with fixed seats.  The Discipline of Pharmaceutical Sciences invited Michaelsen to teach its staff on the approach as it has decided to use the approach across its curriculum next year. 

According to Michaelsen: ‘TBL teachers report high levels of student attendance, preparation, participation and critical thinking, while  TBL students report being more motivated and enjoying class more, even when the subject is not in their major.’ 

He said this approach is about the application of knowledge rather than dispensing and is used in medical and medical related education.  ‘The facts are of no use unless you can apply them in a diagnoses situation. Theory is important, but students must be able to use it,’ he said. 

Michaelson who has been teaching for 41 years, said every course must answer this question: ‘How can this fact be used in doing what I am going to be doing once I graduate.’ 

The TBL method is already in use in other countries: ‘There are three medical schools and four pharmacy schools that are already using it full time in Singapore, England and the US,’ he said. 

Suleman said TBL has worked elsewhere in the world. ‘We will wait and see how it is accepted here in the next few years. Students will more likely see the links between the different concepts they cover and its application in their practice setting. It prepares them better, provides them with confidence and develops life-long learners,’ she added.