Practical learning: achieving excellence in the human services

January 23-25 2008 Edinburgh International Conference Centre

Learning to learn: the collaborative challenge

Keywords: collaborative learning, skill development, inter- & intra-professional

Author: Louise O'Connor (London South Bank University)

Collaborative learning within and across professions aims to promote deeper learning and contribute to effective interprofessional partnerships in the delivery of human services. This study explores the impact of an innovative learning and assessment process delivered to two diverse groups of mature nursing and social work students. The course was designed to enhance students' 'intrinsic motivation' (McDowell 2001) in terms of their engagement in the meaning and practice of partnership as part of the learning process. A series of interactive groupwork activities required collaborative partnership which culminated in a group assessment task. The aim was to engage learners in the practical reality of intra- and inter-professional partnership whilst exploring their theoretical understanding of collaborative partnership in the human services.

This study aims to evaluate how aspects of the learning & assessment process contributes to students' collaborative and individual learning and how effectively this process contributes to skill and knowledge development both within and across professional boundaries. Data was collected from the first joint cohort of employment based students (seconded by employers) using questionnaires. A focus group facilitated more indepth and qualitative exploration of key themes arising from the initial analysis of questionnaires. A second stage of this study will gather data from a further cohort of social work and nursing students.

Initial findings indicate the complexity of intra- and inter-professional partnership and the challenges and opportunities inherent in collaborative learning. The learning process challenged individual perceptions of professional identity, behaviour and perceived commonalities in the student group. This study provides valuable messages about how dynamic collaborative learning can positively contribute to learning across and within professions.

This study describes an innovative collaborative learning experience which encouraged exploration of tensions and challenges inherent in both intra- and inter-partnership working. It raises valuable questions about perceptions of professional identity and behaviour and how these can be actively utilised in effective learning across professions.

Date: Wednesday 23 January 2008, 4.00-4.30

Venue: Carrick Two

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Organised by the Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services in association with PEPE (Practical Experiences in Professional Education).