Lees, A. and Meyer, E.
Making connections across boundaries: interprofessional learning and communities of practice
At European Interprofessional Education Network (EIPEN) 2nd International Conference.
17 - 18 Sep 2009.
Aim: this paper applies Wenger’s (1998) theory of Communities of Practice (CoP) to Interprofessional Learning (IPL). Using findings from a study to evaluate the pedagogy of one Interprofessional Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme for health, education and social care professionals, we illustrate how IPL can work at the boundaries of a number of distinct agencies to forge links and enhance understanding between them.
Background: CoPs are characterised by ‘mutual engagement’, ‘mutual relationships’, a ‘negotiated enterprise’, ‘shared repertoire’ and boundaries with the rest of the world. Connections can be made between CoPs through the use of ‘boundary encounters’, ‘boundary objects’ and ‘brokering’ (Wenger, 1998). These concepts are significant to IPL and have ramifications for pedagogical design.
Methods: 33 semi-structured interviews were conducted with CPD participants and their line managers.
Results: the CPD provided a forum for boundary encounters between a range of multi-agency professionals. The use of a neutral environment, away from work pressures, was appreciated and encouraged participants to share, question and challenge each other. The pedagogy made extensive use of boundary objects around which discussions could be focused, for example joint presentations. Participants appreciated these as a mechanism through which to engage with interagency colleagues and to step outside professional silos. Brokering was carried out by the course facilitator, who encouraged debate, ensured group focus and responded to requests for additional information. CPD participants were impressed with the informal and responsive style of facilitation. Our findings reinforced the central role of facilitation in IPL, identified by Oandasan and Reeves (2005).
Conclusions: this paper applies a theoretical perspective to the evaluation of IPL, which has increasingly been called for in recent years. Wenger’s framework highlights issues of central relevance to IPL and has assisted us in producing a ‘systematic, disciplined and critical’ analysis. (Barr et al., 2005).
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