The use of team-based, guided inquiry learning to overcome educational disadvantages in learning human physiology: a structural equation model Academic Article uri icon


  • The study of human bioscience is viewed as a crucial curriculum in allied health. Nevertheless, bioscience (and particularly physiology) is notoriously difficult for undergraduates, particularly academically disadvantaged students. So endemic are the high failure rates (particularly in nursing) that it has come to be known as “the human bioscience problem.” In the present report, we describe the outcomes for individual success in studying first-year human physiology in a subject that emphasises team-based active learning as the major pedagogy for mastering subject learning outcomes. Structural equation modeling was used to develop a model of the impact team learning had on individual performance. Modeling was consistent with the idea that students with similar academic abilities (as determined by tertiary entrance rank) were advantaged (scored higher on individual assessment items) by working in strong teams (teams that scored higher in team-based assessments). Analysis of covariance revealed that students who studied the subject with active learning as the major mode of learning activities outperformed students who studied the subject using the traditional didactic teaching format (lectures and tutorials, P = 0.000). After adjustment for tertiary entrance rank (via analysis of covariance) on two individual tests (the final exam and a late-semester in-class test), individual student grades improved by 8% (95% confidence interval: 6–10%) and 12% (95% confidence interval: 10–14%) when students engaged in team-based active learning. These data quantitatively support the notion that weaker students working in strong teams can overcome their educational disadvantages.

publication date

  • 2014