Interprofessional Education
learning FROM other professionals

learning FROM other professionals - Teams 



How do we best learn from our colleagues?

Interprofessional education is a team activity, and in order to enjoy and have success with interprofessional education we need to know a bit about teams:

  • how they work

  • what roles people can and do play in teams

  • how we can make any team we work in into a better team

Team Development



In 1965 Bruce Tuckman published a paper proposing a predictable set of stages through which a team will pass while developing[1]

1. Forming - the coming together of a group

2. Storming - the articulation and sorting of various needs, wishes and goals

3. Norming - coming to a an agreed way of being/working together

4. Performing - working together as a well functioning team

5. Adjourning/mourning - not about the function of the team, but an acknowledgment that the experience of being in a team effects us

Much has been written on this, but it is important to know that teams are organic, they grow and change and develop over time.



  • are not always immediately functional

  • require effort and commitment of the members

  • are not all the same, what works for one team may not work for another

  • need to be safe and have ways of discussing difficult topics

Task vs. Process

Though teams are formed to complete a task or for a purpose (what gets done), there is a lot of process (how it gets done) that happens to make a team work and to keep it working.  There must be a balance between task and process. There are times when one is more appropriate than the other. In an emergency it is clear that the task is more important than the process. Having said this, a team with good process may be more effective at the task.



Describe a team you have been in that focused on task.

Was this the appropriate amount?


Decribe a team that you have been in that focused on process.

Was this the appropriate amount?


What happens to a team that is all task?

all process?


Describe a team you have been on that functioned well.

What was the task/process balance like?


What if some members of a team are more focused on task and others on process? How could you help this team to work well together?

Roles in groups

Just like there are many leadership styles there are many roles that people play in teams[2]



What roles have you traditionally played in teams?

Name two other roles that you could play in a team.


What opportunities are there within your programme to learn with from and about other health professions?

How can you make opportunities for yourself to do more interprofessional learning?


How do you see interprofessional care fitting into your future practice?

The next time you are in a team take a mental step back and look at how the team is working and what roles people are playing.  See if you can help the team by playing a role that balances out the other roles and moves things forward, even if it isn’t a role that comes to you easily.


When working in a team it is necessary to have meetings. Whether these are  formal or informal it is important to have an agreed upon structure. Some examples of this include;

  • agenda

    - can be circulated in advance or agreed upon at the beginning of the meeting

    - to outline what work needs to be done and the approximate time being devoted to each item

  • chair person

    - one person to direct the conversation

    - ensure that everyone gets to speak

    - summarize and clarify discussion

    - direct the group to decisions or completion of tasks as required

    - can be a shared or rotated responsibility

  • clear conclusion to the meeting

    - includes a reminder of tasks for team members, information about minutes

    - set date, time and location of next meeting

    - take time for feedback about how the meeting went and whether changes need to be made to help the team function more effectively. This feedback at the end of the meeting is easy to skip, but is very important to keep a group on track and ensure that the team is meeting the needs of all participants.

  • communication structure

    - a way of letting people know about future meetings, and about the results of a meeting (in the case of absences) and also as a record and reminder




It is important for people to be able to express opinions and make constructive comments.  There are a few ways of doing this that can keep things from getting ugly.


  • constructive

  • positive

  • specific


 less effective

 more effective feedback


 "you don’t know what you are talking about"

 "perhaps next time it would be helpful if you were able to read the documents we are discussion before coming to the meeting"


 "it was good"

 " I really liked the way you gave everyone in the team an opportunity to speak once before people got to speak a second time, it gave me the encouragement I needed to speak"


 "you talk too much"

 "it is clear that you have a great deal of enthusiasm and knowledge that you would like to share with the team, is there a way that you can write some of it down to circulate to the team before the next meeting and then others can talk about some of your ideas?"



Sometimes it is necessary to say difficult things and it can be helpful to make a sandwich - find positive comments with which to sandwich the difficult comment.  It is easier to embrace constructive feedback if we can feel good about some aspects of our performance and work to improve it rather than feeling judged.

" I really appreciate the extra work you did to bring a variety of perspectives to our discussion today, perhaps in the future we could put new topics on the agenda rather than getting off on a tangent, it is clear that you are really interested and committed to this work"


There is much to learn about working in teams, and communicating effectively, this is not meant to be comprehensive but to give you a sense that there is lots that can be done to make team work fun and supportive.



1. Tuckman, Bruce. (1965). Developmental sequence in small groups. Psychological bulletin, 63, 384-399. There is a link to a reprint of this paper from the Wikipedia

2. content for the group roles activities from: accessed August 24, 2007

All references for this section