How interdisciplinary teams can create multi-disciplinary education: the interplay between team processes and educational quality

Authors

  • Renee E Stalmeijer,

    1. Department of Educational Development and Research, Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands
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  • Wim H Gijselaers,

    1. Department of Educational Development and Research, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands
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  • Ineke H A P Wolfhagen,

    1. Department of Educational Development and Research, Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands
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  • Sigrid Harendza,

    1. University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany
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  • Albert J J A Scherpbier

    1. Institute for Medical Education, Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands
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Renee E Stalmeijer, Department of Educational Development and Research, Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, Maastricht University, PO Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands. Tel: 00 31 43 388 5735; Fax: 00 31 43 388 5779; E-mail: r.stalmeijer@educ.unimaas.nl

Abstract

Context  Many undergraduate medical education programmes offer integrated multi-disciplinary courses, which are generally developed by a team of teachers from different disciplines. Research has shown that multi-disciplinary teams may encounter problems, which can be detrimental to productive co-operation, which in turn may diminish educational quality. Because we expected that charting these problems might yield suggestions for addressing them, we examined the relationships between team diversity, team processes and course quality.

Methods  We administered a questionnaire to participants from 21 interdisciplinary teams from 1 Dutch and 1 German medical school, both of which were reforming their curriculum. An adapted questionnaire on team learning behaviours, which had been validated in business contexts, was used to collect data on team processes, team learning behaviours and diversity within teams. We examined the relationship between the team factors and educational quality measures of the courses designed by the teams.

Results  A total of 84 teachers (60%) completed the questionnaire. Bivariate correlation analysis showed that several aspects of diversity, conflict, working climate and learning behaviour were correlated with course quality.

Conclusions  The negative effects of the diversity measures, notably, value diversity, on other team processes and course quality and the positive association between psychological safety and team learning suggest that educational quality might be improved by enhancing the functioning of multi-disciplinary teams responsible for course development. The relationship between team processes and educational quality should be studied among larger study populations. Student ratings should also be considered in measuring educational quality.

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