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Describing student threshold learning experiences in interprofessional contexts: A phenomenographic study



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The purpose of this research was to describe the threshold concept of interprofessionality. Threshold concepts are often troublesome learnings but, once understood, transform the way students see the world. Interprofessionality is the deployment of innovative team knowledge toward a common goal at the crux of education and practice and is based in values and professional codes. Thirteen healthcare students from eight different professional programs relayed their experiences of working with others from 15 different healthcare backgrounds about crossing the threshold from a uniprofessional bounded perspective to interprofessional learning and working. This threshold was an a-ha!-moment or significant learning experience. The method employed was phenomenography based in a social constructionist epistemology. Phenomenography is research into how humans experience phenomena through the creation of a unique hierarchy of categories based on the similarities and differences in student learning from superficial to deep. The participants were a convenience sample of students from three educational institutions in Saskatchewan. Students were invited to share a reflective writing or be interviewed regarding an interprofessional experience that included a patient. Students were interviewed in a stepwise approach with the subsequent student contributing to category development as each interview was aggregated. Students reported on serendipitous learning opportunities but also provided critique of the limited structured experiences available within their educational programs. The student experiences reflected the liminal chaos of being a healthcare student, moving through the stages to becoming a professional. The phenomenographic categories reflect student conceptions of their interprofessional learning about the patient experience from individual through community to global interactions. The short names for the four learning steps were: 1) community vision, 2) leadership expectations and obligations, 3) trust and value, and 4) ‘connect the threads.’ Emerging from this phenomenographic outcome space, which was the threshold moment of interprofessionality, was the resultant ontological shift, the change in worldview from being a student to becoming an interprofessional team member. This research led to conclusions about authentic structured IPE for students as a bridge between education and healthcare settings, differentiating the experience of being a student or a healthcare student, and the delivery of patient care or patient-centred care.



interprofessional education, threshold concepts, liminality



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Educational Administration


Educational Administration


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