Does Interprofessional Problem-Based Learning (iPBL) Develop Health Professional Students’ Interprofessional Competences? A Systematic Review of Contexts, Mechanisms and Outcomes

Main Article Content

Deirdre Phelan
Terry Barrett
Olive Lennon


This systematic review reports the state-of-the-art and evidence supporting interprofessional problem-based learning (iPBL) as a developmental tool for interprofessional competences. A targeted search strategy deployed across seven electronic databases, identified 32 studies which met inclusion criteria following independent double review. All study types were included. Aggregated results identified evidence (quantitative and/or qualitative) that iPBL This systematic review reports the state-of-the-art and evidence supporting interprofessional problem-based learning (iPBL) as a developmental tool for interprofessional competences. A targeted search strategy deployed across seven electronic data-bases identified 32 studies which met inclusion criteria following independent double review. All study types were included. Aggregated results identified evidence (quantitative and/or qualitative) that iPBL promotes competences as categorised using the Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC) framework, in Ethics/Values (n = 7); Roles/Responsibilities (n = 27); Interprofessional Communication (n = 19) and Teams/Teamwork (n = 21). Qualitative research dominated the literature. Limited, high-level quantitative data observed effects on students’ attitudes and perceptions of interprofessional compe-tences. Reporting of iPBL context and implementation mechanisms (e.g., trigger design) were largely absent in identified studies. Most iPBL (n = 26), was conducted in university rather than clinical settings.

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Author Biographies

Deirdre Phelan, University College Dublin

Deirdre Phelan is a Special Lecture/Clinical Tutor at the School of Public Health, Physiotherapy & Sports Science, UCD. She qualified in 2005 from Trinity College Dublin with an Honours degree in Physiotherapy. Deirdre has gained over 10 years experience working in clincial esucation and her student-centred approach is underpinned by formal postgraduate training in clinical education for health professionals that she completed in NUI Galway in 2013. Her clinical education research interests include interprofessional education (IPE), problem-based learning (PBL) and cardiorespiratory physiotherapy care.  Alongside clinical education responsibilities, Deirdre coordinates and delivers cardiorespiratory modules for both undergraduate and MSc (Pre-registration) Physiotherapy programmes at UCD. She has recently completed a diploma in university Teaching and Learning.

Terry Barrett, University College Dublin

Dr. Terry Barrett is a Lecturer/Asssitant Professor in Educational Development at UCD Teaching and Learning. She is currently the Programme Director for the Profession Certificate and Diploma Programmes in University Teaching and Learning. She teaches modules on curriculum design, problem-based learning, embedding research in teaching and getting published in teaching. She has twenty years experience of working with problem-based learning (PBL) as an education developer, programme coordinator, researcher, tutor and research supervisor. She has worked in the design and implementation of PBL initiatives in a range of disciplines.

Olive Lennon, University College Dublin

Olive Lennon is a Lecturer/Assistant Porfessor at the School of Public Health, Physiotherapy & Sports Science, UCD. Olive graduated from UCD as a physiotherapist in 1991. She has over 20 years of clinical experience both here in Ireland and in the US with a speciality in neurorehabilitation. She held a HRB Research Fellowship post from 2007 -2011 exploring the adaptation of the cardiac rehabilitation paradigm to the stroke population and the role of lifestyle interventions in secondary prevention post stroke. This research formed the basis of a PhD thesis. Other post graduate qualifications include an MSc in Health Informatics, a PG diploma in Research Statistics, a PG diploma in Health Services Management and she has recently completed a diploma in Teaching and Learning.


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