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The role of the teacher

The teacher is instrumental in ensuring that interprofessional learning (IPL) is effective at many levels: at the level of the curriculum (its design and balance of activities); timetabling; allocation of resources; consideration of power relationships between different professional and academic groups; and selection of appropriate activities for IPL. Once higher-level decisions have been made to implement IPL activities, the teacher is also responsible for what goes on in the learning environment itself – the micro-culture of the ‘classroom’.

Thinking point

  • Do you think that teachers of IPL need special skills and training? Or is it simply facilitation ‘plus’?


Susanne Marie Lindquist and Scott Reeves’s paper (2007) focuses on the facilitator’s role with a view to enhancing our empirical understanding of this area.

  • The study aimed to provide some insight into the role of facilitating interprofessional learning and explore some of the elements that lead to successful facilitation of IPL.
  • Results suggested that facilitators felt that in order to be effective, they needed to be able to ‘display a range of attributes including enthusiasm, humour and empathy’.
  • The facilitators often felt that although enjoyable, the role was challenging, but they valued the opportunity to develop their techniques and the follow-up debriefings were also very useful.
  • The study indicated that support of IPL facilitators by way of meetings and debrief sessions is valuable in the implementation of IPL in the workplace.

Marcel D’Eon considers the educational theory underpinning IPL and how this can be used to structure learning and develop meaningful activities. He suggests experiential and co-operative learning as two axes that can be used to plan, design and evaluate IPL activities.

  • Examine several techniques for enabling the successful implementation of IPL in health professions.
  • Challenge students with interesting and complex learning tasks which are representative of their working environments to enable them to transfer this learning to their work.
  • The learning task or situation needs to be structured to reflect the ‘five elements of best-practice cooperative learning’, which include face-to-face and small group teaching, development of interpersonal skills and accountability for one’s own learning.
  • Use of the experiential learning framework together with ‘planning, doing, observing and reflecting’ is important in the development of the learning tasks.

D’Eon suggests that using the above techniques will allow the successful implementation of interprofessional education.           

Thinking point

  • How do you think these ideas could be used in your own teaching? Does this add to your understanding of how IPL works ‘in the classroom’?


Here are some guidelines for classroom management of interprofessional groups.

  • Encourage ‘learning from’ rather than ‘learning with’ one another.
  • Make sure you have an adequate, diverse and equal mix of professionals.
  • Ensure the majority of a session has relevance to all participants.
  • Utilise the skills, knowledge and expertise of all the participants through carefully selected activities.
  • Do not let one group dominate discussion and ideas.
  • Challenge stereotyping and negative views.


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