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Students’ reflections on first-year interprofessional teamwork: Phenomenographic evaluation of function and success

Susan McNaughton


Background: While early interprofessional teamwork is of uncertain benefit to patients, it has value for changing attitudes towards interprofessionalism and for developing skills and traits relevant for healthcare students. Exploring and evaluating changes in these skills and attitudes is under-researched, especially in early healthcare education. Reflective assessment, while frequently used to gauge clinical students’ professional skills and attitudes, is hampered by issues related to authenticity and reliability. A potentially more productive use of reflection is for developing skills and attitudes such as self-awareness, communication and respect in early interprofessional teamwork. The aim of the study was to collect and analyse first-year non-clinical students’ reflections in which they specifically evaluated their own and their team’s success and collaboration on an interprofessional teamwork project.

Methods: Phenomenographic analysis of summative participant reflections was conducted to demonstrate variations in factors and elements that influenced interprofessional teamwork function and success.

Findings: Four factors were perceived to influence team function: individual characteristics, team dynamics, team structure and external factors. From participant responses, four critical elements of successful teamwork emerged: time management, communication, cooperation and leadership. The phenomenographic outcome space shows how variations in the presence of and relationships between these elements produced differences in team function and success. Variation in individual self- awareness and reflective capacity was also identified.

Conclusions: This study identified factors and elements that students believe affect collaboration, and how these influence team success. The findings confirm the value of formal reflection in helping students to develop self-awareness in teamwork settings.



interprofessional education, teamwork, reflection, undergraduate, assessment

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