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Med Teach. 2012;34(2):e78-101. doi: 10.3109/0142159X.2012.650740.

Theoretical insights into interprofessional education: AMEE Guide No. 62.

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School of Health and Social Care, Bournemouth University, Dorset, UK.


In this Guide, we support the need for theory in the practice of interprofessional education and highlight a range of theories that can be applied to interprofessional education. We specifically discuss the application of theories that support the social dimensions of interprofessional learning and teaching, choosing by way of illustration the theory of social capital, adult learning theory and a sociological perspective of interprofessional education. We introduce some of the key ideas behind each theory and then apply these to a case study about the development and delivery of interprofessional education for pre-registration healthcare sciences students. We suggest a model that assists with the management of the numerous theories potentially available to the interprofessional educator. In this model, context is central and a range of dimensions are presented for the reader to decide which, when, why and how to use a theory. We also present some practical guidelines of how theories may be translated into tangible curriculum opportunities. Using social capital theory, we show how theory can be used to defend and present the benefits of learning in an interprofessional group. We also show how this theory can guide thinking as to how interprofessional learning networks can best be constructed to achieve these benefits. Using adult learning theories, we explore the rationale and importance of problem solving, facilitation and scaffolding in the design of interprofessional curricula. Finally, from a sociological perspective, using Bernstein's concepts of regions and terrains, we explore the concepts of socialisation as a means of understanding the resistance to interprofessional education sometimes experienced by curriculum developers. We advocate for new, parallel ways of viewing professional knowledge and the development of an interprofessional knowledge terrain that is understood and is contributed to by all practitioners and, importantly, is centred on the needs of the patient or client. Through practical application of theory, we anticipate that our readers will be able to reflect and inform their current habitual practices and develop new and innovative ways of perceiving and developing their interprofessional education practice.

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