Transformative learning opportunities for students and educators during interprofessional healthcare practice experiences in higher education: Viewed through the lens of Threshold Concepts Theory


  • Cecile Jane Morgan Auckland University of Technology
  • Alexander Bowmar Auckland University of Technology
  • Susan McNaughton Auckland University of Technology
  • Brenda Flood Auckland University of Technology
  • Daniel O'Brien Auckland University of Technology



interprofessional, students, educators, transformative learning, threshold concepts, collaboration, health


Introduction: The transformative nature of collaborative interprofessional learning experiences, for both students and educators, signals the importance of learning opportunities that transcend professional or disciplinary boundaries. Specifically, real-time clinical practice experiences where students and educators from a number of health professions learn with, from and about eachother, while working with patients, enables authentic interprofessional learning opportunities.

Methods: This paper reports the qualitative interpretive findings from a mixed methods study on the learning experiences of students and educators from several undergraduate health and allied health programmes engaged in collaborative interprofessional practice in a university context. Interpretive thematic analysis of student and educator focus group transcripts revealed a number of transformational learning thresholds that students and educators transitioned through, over time.   

Findings: Transformative learning occurred through cumulative collaborative learning experiences. Interprofessional thresholds were identified as: broadening perspectives on health practice; navigating collaborative roles through interprofessional practice (IPP); interprofessional team practice through active learning/learning by doing; integrative professional practice for actioning holistic, patient-centred healthcare. 

Conclusion: Threshold Concepts Theory (TCT) provided both an interpretive lens for viewing the experiential learning processes that occurred during the student-led interprofessional programme and a theoretical perspective into the transformative nature of knowledge and skills acquisition and integration during interprofessional learning opportunities. 

Author Biographies

Cecile Jane Morgan, Auckland University of Technology

Senior Lecturer in the School of Interprofessional Health Studies at Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand. Jane works with a team of educators in jointly developing, implementing and researching pedagogy and practice in the area of interprofessional education and collaborative practice across undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in the university, which houses the most diverse and largest health faculty in New Zealand universities. 

Alexander Bowmar, Auckland University of Technology

Senior Research Officer in the School of Interprofessional Health Studies at Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand. Alex coordinates a team of interprofessional educators and researchers to research a range of aspects in interprofessional education. Her main interest is in wellbeing, health behaviour and how a national health care system can enhance and support its population.

Susan McNaughton, Auckland University of Technology

Lecturer in the School of Interprofessional Health Studies at Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand. Sue works with an interprofessional team to deliver and research interprofessional education in person-centred class and clinical settings. Her main interest is in how students integrate the different domains of learning, especially their beliefs and values.

Brenda Flood, Auckland University of Technology

Senior Lecturer across the Faculty of Health and Environmental Science at Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand. Brenda works with a diverse group of health professionals and educators in the development, delivery and evaluation of interprofessional learning initiatives. Brenda has a particular interest in the re-orientation of tertiary health education programmes where knowing, acting and being interprofessional are promoted, embedded and preserved. 

Daniel O'Brien, Auckland University of Technology

Lecturer in the physiotherapy department at Auckland University of Technology. He is currently undertaking his PhD., which is looking at patients’ and clinicians’ beliefs regarding the management of osteoarthritis. His other research interests include facilitating behaviour change in healthcare and exploring interprofessional collaboration in healthcare practice.


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How to Cite

Morgan, C. J., Bowmar, A., McNaughton, S., Flood, B., & O’Brien, D. (2019). Transformative learning opportunities for students and educators during interprofessional healthcare practice experiences in higher education: Viewed through the lens of Threshold Concepts Theory. Focus on Health Professional Education: A Multi-Professional Journal, 20(2), 41–54.