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Learning Theories and Interprofessional Education: An Overview. ESRC Seminar Series: 26 th June 2009. Background. Research evidence underpinning the drive for IPL is still growing (Payler et al., 2007; Thistlewaite, 2008)

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learning theories and interprofessional education an overview

Learning Theories and Interprofessional Education: An Overview

ESRC Seminar Series: 26th June 2009

  • Research evidence underpinning the drive for IPL is still growing (Payler et al., 2007; Thistlewaite, 2008)
  • Descriptive, anecdotal & atheoretical? (Freeth et al., 2002; Barr et al., 2005; Clarke, 2006)
  • Few interventions identify the educational theory underpinning the development & delivery of IPE initiatives (Cooper et al., 2001; Freeth et al., 2002; Barr et al., 2005)
  • Kolb’s (1984) experiential learning cycle, adult learning theory & psychological theories of group behaviours and teamwork approaches (Cooper et al., 2001; Barr et al., 2005) and learning organisations (Freeth et al., 2002)
  • Theory needed to guide IPE curriculum development (Eraut, 2003; Clark, 2006)
families of learning theory
Families of Learning Theory
  • Behaviourism
  • Constructivism


- social

  • Use in IPE?
behaviourists consider that
Behaviourists consider that:
  • Learning outcomes are important as opposed to the processes underpinning this learning;
  • All behaviour is learned and all learning involves an observable change in behaviour;
  • Adopt a positivist approach;
  • Students’ own activity in achieving outcomes is pivotal to learning.

(Jarvis et al., 2003; Armitage et al., 2003)

behaviourism in ipe
Behaviourism in IPE
  • IPE curriculum developers create an outcome based curriculum;
  • Interprofessional competencies (Arredondo et al., 2004; Norris et al., 2005)

-learning outcomes assessed and evaluated

  • No clear reference to IPE competencies in curriculum design
  • IPE evaluations- Kirkpatrick’s (1967) model
modified kirkpatrick s model of educational outcomes for ipe
Modified Kirkpatrick's Model of Educational Outcomes for IPE

(Barr et al., 2000; Freeth et al, 2002; Hammick et al., 2007)

cognitive constructivism
Cognitive Constructivism
  • Concerned with the process of how learners learn;
  • Adult learning- self directed learning
  • Learning is within the learner’s control (Spencer and Jordan, 1999; Kaufman, 2003; Wood, 2003)
  • Application and use of developmental theories (Paiget, 1973)
clark 2006 applied perry s 1970 theory
Clark (2006) applied Perry’s (1970) theory:
  • Accepting of the range of complementary professions required to provide holistic care;
  • Students recognise the presence and nature of other professions.
  • Via IPE students are offered an opportunity to expand beliefs beyond own profession

Ultimate Goal

ipe curriculum developer s role
IPE Curriculum Developer’s Role:
  • Consider ways to develop students’ knowledge by activating and building on existing knowledge bases- transformative learning
  • Consider key assumptions underlying the constructivist origins of adult learning theory (ALT) or androgogy (Knowles, 1990; Kaufman, 2003)
  • ALT- key mechanism for well received IPE (Hammick et al., 2007)
teaching methods used to facilitate adult learning
Teaching methods used to facilitate adult learning:
  • Self-directed learning (Kaufman, 2003)
  • Problem based learning (Newble, 2002; Wood, 2003);
  • Discovery learning (Spencer and Jordan, 1999; O’Halloran et al., 2006);
  • Case based learning;
  • Portfolio based learning;
  • Project based learning;
  • Peer evaluation;
  • Use of learning contracts (Kolb, 1984; Brown and Atkins, 1988; Spencer and Jordan, 1999).
  • Use reflective practitioner theory (Schon, 1984; Goosey and Barr, 2002) and experiential learning (Moon, 2004; Roberts et al., 2000).
social constructivism vygotsky 1978 1986
Social Constructivism – Vygotsky (1978; 1986)
  • D’Eon (2005):
  • Use of IPE tasks could become progressively more complex from, for example simple paper case-based scenarios with two disciplines to very complex cases in real life settings with many disciplines
  • Learning- mediated via socio-cultural instruments e.g. language
  • Support systems
social constructivism macro level thinking
Social constructivism & macro level thinking:
  • Used to inform evaluations of IPE (see, for example Robinson and Cottrell, 2005; Payler et al., 2007);
  • Why has it not been used to inform IPE curriculum development?

-HE curriculum developers- focus on micro level of learning (Hean, Craddock and O’Halloran, 2009)

-Critics of activity theory (Fuller et al., 2005; Payler et al., 2007)

  • Communities of practice (Wenger, 1998)
  • Activity systems (Engestrom, 1999; 2004).
  • Expansive learning –to create new knowledge & practice
  • Insufficient rigorous research identifying the theoretical underpinning of IPE initiatives;
  • Implications of overlooking IPE theorising;
  • Benefits of IPE theorising
  • Catholic approach to a whole range of theoretical doctrines is needed (Meads et al, 2003).
time for reflection
Time for Reflection
  • How can learning theory be used to inform your own work?
  • How can you evaluate its use in practice?
  • How can we work together to advance knowledge in this field?

Our overview of contemporary learning theories used in IPE:



interprofessional competencies



Self directed, experiential,

problem based,


interprofessional, collaborative






Developmental/stage theory

Self directed, experiential,

problem based,




Social conflict theory

Socio-cultural learning

Situated learning

Collaborative learning

Interprofessional learning


Expansive learning


(Hean, Craddock and O’Halloran, 2009)