Expert Interview Dr. Sandy Cook, Senior Associate Dean at Duke-NUS Medical School on TBL in education

Expert Interview Dr. Sandy Cook, Senior Associate Dean at Duke-NUS Medical School on TBL in education

Dr. Sandy Cook Professor, Senior Associate Dean at Duke-NUS Medical School, and chairman of the Team-Based Learning Collaborative Asia Pacific Coalition has researched the development, implementation, & impact of Team-Based Learning (TBL). She is also the academic co-founder of InteDashboard”. We talk to Sandy about her experience with TBL and the future of TBL in education.

1. When did you first learn of, and begin to engage with the concept of Team-Based Learning?

I first learned of TBL around 2000, when Boyd Richards was giving workshops in the U.S., but I first began to work specifically with TBL when I came to Singapore and the Vice Dean Robert Kamei suggested we explore that strategy. We got books, visited Wright State University, Boonshoft School of Medicine in Dayton Ohio to see how they were doing it, brought Larry Michaelse “father of TBL and Dean Parmelee (from Boonshoft) to Singapore for faculty development here in Singapore. From there, I created our own unique faculty development workshops and process. It was based on a non-typical medical school administrative structure that was designed to minimize faculty ’s struggle with TBL, develop their skills in preparing material for TBL, provide consistency in the way the materials and processes were done.

2. What kind of a role do you think is the future of Team-Based Learning in higher education, especially when concerning curriculum development?

TBL is one of many different learning strategies; it is not a curriculum development process. The Curriculum is broader and more comprehensive. TBL is just one of the many strategies a faculty can use to help achieve the goals of a curriculum. That said, I believe the process of developing a TBL module model demonstrates good practices that can be applicable even for designing a curriculum. My hope is that when faculty do a good job of building TBL module they are also aligning the goals of the curriculum to the appropriate learning strategies, thus creating a stronger overall curriculum. And, then they can apply similar principles to each learning activity even if they do not use TBL.

3. How would you summarize the impact of Team-Based Learning in medical education especially its’ impact at Duke-NUS Medical School?

For Duke-NUS, TBL (or our TeamLead) has created an international reputation for Duke-NUS in ways that people had not anticipated. It has been viewed as so impactful that Lee Kong Chain School of Medicine adopted it, many faculty at Yale NUS and even teachers in primary and secondary schools in Singapore have adopted it.

For medical education, it has grown substantially since our involvement and many more schools, including Duke School of Medicine and undergraduate programs, have adopted it for many of its courses.

But TBL has grown way beyond just medicine. It has reached out to programs and disciplines way beyond medical school. You can get a flavor of that through the Team-based Learning Collaborative website that highlights there are many disciplines using it. It is also an important strategy for the faculty development modules offered through Duke-NUS ’s Academic Medicine Education Institute (AM.EI).

One of the other impacts, obviously is the spin off company CognaLearn and how TBL is also reaching out to industries other than education but pharmaceutical and even corporate training programs.

4. You have been involved in faculty development efforts in the area of Team-Based Learning at Duke-NUS Medical School. How has the experience been for you so far?

The faculty development efforts for TBL began with training our faculty, but it has expanded to something much greater. I have had the privilege of going to many places around the world to introduce TBL. We then decided to create a fellowship in TBL based on the learning and mentoring we wished we had when we had first started and are recruiting for our seventh intake. This has been the hallmark of my international reputation as a leader in TBL. We have also just launched, with the blessing of the TBL Collaborative, a regional coalition to further support the growing needs of TBL enthusiasts in the Asia Pacific Area. So for me, it has been an honor to be able introduce this strategy to many people and help mentor them in creating engaging learning activities.

5. How did you become involved with the development of InteLearn”?

This framework was the brainchild of former Dean Ranga Krishnan, who saw the elements of learning science being embedded and practiced through the TBL strategy. I believe this is why he was supportive of us using this strategy at Duke-NUS. My role was more of a supporter, reviewer, and contributor to the discussions of the concept and the plan to use this framework as the hallmark of CognaLearn. I believe that my (and the other contributors) involvement was because Dean Krishnan was being thoughtful in recognizing those of us who conceived and implemented TBL.

6. How did you become involved with the incubation and creation of Cognalearn?

My role in CognaLearn was similar as above; although I played a more active role developing and delivering some of the first TBL training sessions sponsored by CognaLearn to help facilitate the skill development of the key CognaLearn team to be able to develop, train, and promote this learning strategy in organizations beyond academia.

7. What, in your opinion, makes InteDashboard” stand out among the Team-Based Learning software available on the market?

There really is no integrated TBL software which is what makes InteDashboard” so unique. The enhancements and flexibility make it useful, especially for those who were struggling with either finding a tech solution or having to juggle multiple platforms to accomplish their technological goals. It is a bit harder for those who found their own patchwork solution and are committed financially to those to try and switch out.

8. What are some realms of learning and work experience that you believe could benefit from the incorporation of Team-Based Learning into its pedagogy where it hasn’t yet been applied?

Within our Duke-NUS, I believe it could be used more often and more frequently in clinical teaching. TBL has been used successfully for clinical teaching in other medical schools, but not much beyond our first year here. I personally believe TBL can be used any place where learning takes place and you want someone to problem solve in novel situations and be a critical thinker, it doesn ’t really matter what content area.

TBLC 2018 poster on tailoring TBL from academic to training settings, by Sandy Cook and Brian O ’Dwyer coming up on our poster bank!

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