Moving interprofessional learning forward through formal assessment


Judy Stone, Level 2, GPO Box 825, 11 Moore Street, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2601, Australia.Tel: 00 61 2 6205 3058; Fax: 00 61 2 6205 2037; E-mail:


Medical Education 2010: 44: 396–403

Context  There is increasing agreement that graduates who finish tertiary education with the full complement of skills and knowledge required for their designated profession are not ‘work-ready’ unless they also acquire interpersonal, collaborative practice and team-working capabilities. Health workers are unable to contribute to organisational culture in a positive way unless they too attain these capabilities. These capabilities have been shown to improve health care in terms of patient safety, worker satisfaction and health service efficiency. Given the importance of interprofessional learning (IPL) which seeks to address these capabilities, why is IPL not consistently embedded into the education of undergraduates, postgraduates and vocationally qualified personnel through formal assessment?

Methods  This paper offers an argument for the formal assessment of IPL. It illustrates how the interests of the many stakeholders in IPL can benefit from, and contribute to, the integration of IPL into mainstream professional development and tertiary education. It offers practical examples of assessment in IPL which could drive learning and offer authentic, contextual teaching and learning experiences to undergraduates and health workers alike.

Conclusions  Assessment drives learning and without formal assessment IPL will continue to be viewed as an optional topic of little relative importance for learners. In order to make the next step forward, IPL needs to be recognised and endorsed through formal assessment, both at the tertiary education level and within the workplace environment. This is supported by workforce initiatives and tertiary education policy which can be used to specify the capabilities or generic skills necessary for effective teamwork and collaborative practice.