With medical school behind them, the alumni who returned to Yale for reunion weekend might have assumed there was one aspect of their education that they would no longer have to confront: the quiz. In a workshop that took alumni through team-based learning, a new approach to teaching. they found themselves back in the classroom facing a quiz.

In this novel method of pedagogy, rather than devote class time to the passive activity of listening to lectures, professors ask students to view lectures online prior to class, and come in to class ready to discuss and apply the lecture material. Team-based learning is meant to foster problem solving and teamwork, and allow students to master material by showing they can apply the material that they have learned to real-world situations.

Alumni experienced this firsthand when Peter Takizawa, Ph.D., assistant professor of cell biology and co-director of the pre-clerkship curriculum, led a hands-on demonstration of the basic components of team-based learning. First, as if they were taking in a web-based lecture in their own time, Takizawa gave a mini-lecture on the bacterium Listeria. Next, the alumni, as students would, took a six-question multiple-choice quiz, or ”readiness assessment,” on the material covered in the lecture. They then broke into small groups and re-took the quiz as a group, discussing the reasoning behind their chosen answers, and revealing the correct answers on a scratch-off card. Takizawa then led the entire group through the quiz, to make sure the correct answers were thoroughly understood.

In team-based learning, said Takizawa, ”Instead of just getting the right answer, they have to reason out why it’s the right answer.”

Finally, alumni applied what they had learned: they worked together to answer a question that brought in a real-world challenge—which of three research studies would best test Listeria’s potential to treat cancer?

”When students walk out the door,” Takizawa said, ”they want to know, ‘What’s the right answer?’ It’s not just simply that you remember the content, although that’s important, but that you actually use the content to solve a problem.”

Feedback from students on team-based learning has been largely positive. ”They say that the approach helps them remember the material and be able to use it later on,” said Takizawa.

Many of the alumni who got their first taste of the new methodology could see the benefits of team-based learning as it applies to the real-world practice of medicine. ”Oncology is multidisciplinary,” said Joel Okoli, M.D. ’81, a professor of surgery at Morehouse School of Medicine who specializes in surgical oncology. ”The team approach is very important and very useful when we need to use information from multiple specialties to arrive at the best treatment for a patient.”

Team-based learning is now used both in the pre-clerkship curriculum to teach the basics of the clinical sciences, as well as in some clinical clerkships. The method, Takizawa said, is still in the experimental phase, but Yale hopes to increase the number of sessions using team-based learning in the coming years.