Discussion Paper: Improving the participation of students in health professional education research


  • Josephine Thomas School of Psychology and School of Medicine, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Adelaide, South Australia 5005.
  • Koshila Kumar Prideaux Centre for Research in Health Professions Education, Flinders University, South Australia 5042.
  • Anna Chur-Hansen School of Psychology, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Adelaide, South Australia 5005.




medical education, health professional education, participation, recruitment


Health professional education (HPE) has grown as a field of research, with an increasing number of publications since the 1990s. Interprofessional education is a specific area of growth with ongoing debate in the literature, at least in part due to the challenges that exist in implementation, and further research is needed to inform ongoing practice. Participant recruitment is a major challenge, and poor participation rates lead to bias and a failure to demonstrate outcomes. 

There is a lack of information about why students decline to participate in research to inform and improve education. Motivation for volunteerism in other contexts and recruitment of human participants in other types of research are examined as a way to understand the likely motivations of student participants. Disincentives to participate include time commitment, survey fatigue and a poor understanding of the value of HPE research and the processes involved. The ethical considerations for teacher-researchers add another layer of complexity to recruitment. 

A multifaceted approach, involving all stakeholders and targeting known influences, is needed to improve recruitment in health professional education research, and clear communication of the research rationale and its potential impact on curriculum design is essential. Explicit communication and adequate information to allow informed student choice are also required, while improved literacy in HPE research may provide students with a better basis for decision making when considering participation. In addition, partnership and student co-design could be a mechanism for more meaningful engagement.

Author Biographies

Josephine Thomas, School of Psychology and School of Medicine, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Adelaide, South Australia 5005.

Jo Thomas is a practicing General Internal Medicine Specialist and Clinical Pharmacologist. She is a Clinical Educator in the School of Medicine and PhD candidate in the School of Psychology, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Adelaide, South Australia 5005

Koshila Kumar, Prideaux Centre for Research in Health Professions Education, Flinders University, South Australia 5042.

Koshila Kumar is a Senior Lecturer and Coordinator of the postgraduate programs in Clinical Education in the Prideaux Centre for Research in Health Professions Education, at Flinders University, South Australia 5042

Anna Chur-Hansen, School of Psychology, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Adelaide, South Australia 5005.

Anna Chur-Hansen is Head of School of Psychology, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Adelaide, South Australia 5005. She is a Registered Psychologist who has taught and published across a range of health professions since the 1980s.


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How to Cite

Thomas, J., Kumar, K., & Chur-Hansen, A. (2019). Discussion Paper: Improving the participation of students in health professional education research. Focus on Health Professional Education: A Multi-Professional Journal, 20(3), 84–96. https://doi.org/10.11157/fohpe.v20i3.342