News and Commentary Evaluating Interprofessional Education

A thoughtful comment on a recent blog post on interprofessional education, raised a very interesting question that I believe is at the leading edge of what we need to learn about interprofessional collaborative teams, practice, and education. The importance of evaluation is acknowledged by leaders in these areas; but there is not a significant body of scholarship to give an evidence-based answer to the question. That said, I believe it is possible to make a few statements that I hope will be helpful to Ms. Pierce and to others in guiding their own efforts to evaluate teams and team members.

First, teams should have a goal or goals that they are trying to achieve. Thus, one measure of the entire team is whether it has achieved its goals or, if it is an intact team vs. an ad hoc team, whether it is able to amass a track record of setting or adopting and achieving goals. One can then try to answer why the team is either achieving or not achieving its goal(s)? Though the results will be qualitative, it should be possible to examine individual factors (skills and interactive capabilities of individuals), and group factors.

Second, all sources of information about the success of what Amy Edmonson (Edmondson, Amy C. Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy. Jossey-Bass, 2012.) calls “teaming” should be sought and considered. Peer evaluations of other individuals and their interactions as well as faculty evaluations in educational settings should be considered.

Third, restricting input to persons from the same discipline will lead to a less-rich body of information that could be useful both to individual team members and the team as a whole. Furthermore, both in practice and educational settings, it will often be the case that there will not be nurses to evaluate nurses and physicians to evaluate physicians. Ideally, in interprofessional education there is more than one faculty member so that the students can learn in part from the way faculty model interprofessional behavior and action; but in a specific exercise there is not necessarily a faculty member representing every professional school from which the students have come. Furthermore, it should be the exception rather than the rule that collaborative practice teams have more than one professional who is expected to have exactly the same skills. Generally, as on a sports team, each team member has an assigned role and often has developed special skills and knowledge to take on that role. As another analogy, health care teams are less like orchestras than they are like chamber music groups, e.g., string quartets, or jazz groups.
Some team evaluation instruments have been developed, primarily for use by evaluators who are external observers of the team behavior. There are pros and cons to each instrument.

Thus, I think it is fair to summarize by saying that evaluation of team performance and teaming is important and is in need of much further developmental work and scholarship. Nonetheless, people involved in interprofessional education and in collaborative practice settings should always consider how they might evaluate and improve team performance.

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