Solving the toxicology mystery: An educational activity focused on team-based problem-solving

Heather L. Blue, Sakina F. Zaheer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Introduction: Toxicology is traditionally taught in a lecture-based format. This type of instruction makes it difficult to assess clinical thinking skills. A team-based learning activity utilizing puzzles was developed for third-year pharmacy students at the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy to practice both knowledge retention and clinical application skills. Methods: The puzzles used in this activity addressed key concepts in toxicology on lower cognitive levels, such as identifying and naming the toxicity. Solving the puzzles revealed clues to a patient case. Students were then tasked with compiling and analyzing these clues to successfully identify the toxicity and recommend appropriate treatment. After finishing the activity, the students completed a short assessment to provide feedback on the program. Results: In the allotted 90 minutes, all 20 groups of eight or nine students correctly completed the puzzles, analyzed the clues, identified the specific toxicity, and created an appropriate treatment regimen. Ninety percent of groups reported that the activity enhanced their learning of toxicology, noting that the activity was engaging, promoted teamwork, and allowed application of knowledge to practical settings. Groups were also asked how the program could be improved, and responses included incorporating more facilitators, making the puzzles more challenging, and to clarify a particular puzzle. Conclusion: This team-based escape room-style activity successfully engaged teams of students in applying their clinical knowledge to solve key concept toxicology puzzles and also identify and treat a poisoned patient case. Feedback provided will be used to improve and expand future team-based learning activities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-52
Number of pages6
JournalJACCP Journal of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Pharmacotherapy Publications, Inc.


  • clinical competence
  • education
  • pharmacy education
  • problem-based learning


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