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Keywords:

  • interprofessional education;
  • theory;
  • social psychology;
  • complexity theory;
  • communities of practice;
  • stereotyping;
  • professionalism;
  • reflection;
  • transformative learning

Abstract

Multiple events are calling for greater interprofessional collaboration and communication, including initiatives aimed at enhancing patient safety and preventing medical errors. Education is 1 way to increase collaboration and communication, and is an explicit goal of interprofessional education (IPE). Yet health professionals to date are largely educated in isolation. IPE differs from most traditional continuing education in that knowledge is largely socially created through interactions with others and involves unique collaborative skills and attitudes. It requires thinking differently about what constitutes teaching and learning. The article draws upon a small number of social and learning theories to explain the rationale for IPE needing a new way of thinking, and proposes approaches to guide development and implementation of IP continuing education. Social psychology and complexity theory explain the influence of the dynamism and interaction of internal (cognitive) and external (environmental) factors upon learning and set the stage for IPE. Theories related to professionalism and stereotyping, communities of practice, reflective learning, and transformative learning appear central to IPE and guide specific educational interventions. In sum, IPE requires CE to adopt new content, recognize new knowledge, and use new approaches for learning; we are now in a different place.