Monday, June 8, 2009

Team-Based Learning

Team-based learning is “an instructional strategy that is “based on procedures for developing high performance learning teams that can dramatically enhance the quality of student learning.” (1) Put another way, it is the use of small groups in college teaching. Most of us are familiar with small-group learning at some level, either by being a member of a small group in our education, or by fashioning them for use in a class that we teach. Why are we seeing a growth in such forms of teaching?

In part, I think it is due to the fact that younger learners are more conversant with technology, are less tolerant of lecture settings, and are tired of passive learning settings. Small groups not only enhance learning, but they also foster interpersonal skill development. And finally, small groups can be an exciting new method for teachers to use to help engage their learners. According to Fink, small-group learning is transformational, driving four separate kinds of transformation:

- Transforming small groups into teams
- Transforming technique into strategy
- Transforming the quality of learning
- Transforming the joy of teaching

Further, Fink also notes that there are three different ways to use small groups: casual use, cooperative learning, and team-based learning. Casual use represents the first use by an instructor, where perhaps after delivering a short lecture the instructor then asks students to pair up with the person sitting next tot hem to discuss a question or solve a problem. After allowing a short period of time to pass, the instructor then calls on some of those students to provide a response. Cooperative learning is a bit more complex. It requires advance planning, regular use of small groups, role assignment, and so on. However, it does not require any significant change in the current structure or format of the course in which it occurs. The small group activities simply are fit into that structure. The pinnacle, then, is team-based learning. Here, the structure of the course in changed in order to most effectively take advantage of what are now called learning teams. These teams require commitment from students and a desire to solve problems beyond the abilities of any single member. (1, p. 7)

Fink notes that for learning teams to be used, a course need only have a body of information that students need to understand, and that the students learning how to apply the content by solving problems or resolving issues. A classic example of this approach could be embodied in the small group process of problem-based learning in healthcare education. Lastly, Fink defines team-based learning as “a particular instructional strategy that is designed to (a) support the development of high performance learning teams and (b) provide opportunities for these teams to engage in significant learning tasks.” (1, p. 9)

It is likely we all use at least a small measure of team-based learning in our teaching; the question is how to systematize doing so at a higher level. The text by Michaelson, Knight and Fink provides a detailed examination in how to do so.


1. Michaelson LK, Knight AB, Fink LD, editors. Team-based learning: a transformatice use of small groups in college teaching. Sterling, VA; Stylus Publishing 2004:vi

Monday, June 1, 2009

The American Public Health Association

I’ve been a member of the American Public Health Association for nearly 15 years now, and am among only perhaps a few hundred people from our profession to join and participate. I’d like to take a little time here to describe APHA and advocate for you to consider joining as a member of the Chiropractic Health Care section. Information I present here can also be found on the APHA website, at

APHA is the oldest and largest public health organization in the world, and has been in existence since 1872. As the website notes, “the Association aims to protect all Americans and their communities from preventable, serious health threats and strives to assure community-based health promotion and disease prevention activities and preventive health services are universally accessible in the United States.” Amongst its members are practitioners, educators and health care professionals of an amazing diversity, and this diversity includes several hundred chiropractors. The vision of APHA is a healthy global society, and it has worked ceaselessly to that end for more than a century. Its mission is to “Improve the health of the public and achieve equity in health status.” APHA gives voice to the underserved and the forgotten, ensuring that our efforts at improving national health leaves no one behind.

Advocacy is a major activity of APHA, and it regularly publishes legislative updates of its actions; the latest can be read at

APHA has 25 sections, each comprised of major public health disciplines. Sections are the primary professional unit of APHA, and it is through its sections that much of its work is accomplished. I am pleased to note that one of the 25 sections is the Chiropractic Health Care section. As it is described on the website, the CHC “enhances public health through the application of chiropractic knowledge to the community by conservative care, disease prevention and health promotion.” The existence of this section is a result of the work of a number of people, but none more so than Dr. Rand Baird, who has been an APHA member for more than 25 years and was instrumental in growing the chiropractic membership. Palmer College has an active number of faculty and administrators among the members of this section.

It is important that we have this voice. Chiropractors serve on APHA’s Governing Council, and have made important input into public health policy. But our numbers are few and more should join. Please consider it. The investment of money pays off in influence, and our influence needs to be heard at the highest levels of our government. APHA can help make that happen.