Socio-material perspectives on interprofessional team and collaborative learning

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Abstract

CONTEXT

Interprofessional teamwork and collaboration have become important parts of health care practice and education. Most of the literature on interprofessional learning, however, assumes that learning is something acquired by individuals and readily transferred to other contexts. This assumption severely limits the ways in which interprofessional educators and researchers can conceptualise and support learning related to collaborative interprofessional health care. Socio-material theories provide an alternative to individualistic, acquisition-oriented notions by reconceiving learning in terms of collective dynamics, participation in social communities and active engagement with material contexts.

METHODS

Socio-material literature and theories were reviewed to identify concepts relevant to interprofessional learning. After briefly summarising the origins and key principles of socio-material approaches, the authors draw upon specific socio-material theories – including complexity theory, cultural-historical activity theory and actor-network theory – in order to reconceive how learning happens in interprofessional contexts. This reframing of interprofessional learning focuses less on individuals and more on collective dynamics and the actual social and material relations involved in practice.

DISCUSSION

The paper proposes five ways in which learning may be enacted in interprofessional teamwork and collaboration from a socio-material perspective: (i) diverse contributions; (ii) social interactions and relationships; (iii) synthesis of professional ideas; (iv) integration of material elements, and (v) connections to large-scale organisations. For each of these categories, the paper provides practical illustrations to assist educators and researchers who wish to identify and assess this learning.

CONCLUSIONS

Although more exploratory than comprehensive, this paper articulates many key aspects of socio-material learning theories and offers practical guidance for those who wish to employ and assess them in interprofessional contexts.

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