Learning Styles and
Underpinning Theories
Author: Ali Ewing, Principal Lecturer Learning and Teaching
2010 - 2011
The University of Northampton
Park Campus, Boughton Green Road
Learning styles
Students have different preferred learning styles.
Nature – relatively fixed
Nurture – more flexible and open to change
Educators have different delivery styles.
What are the implications for your practice and for
inter-professional education?
Constructive Alignment (Biggs 2003)
Making learning harmonise with other elements of
curriculum or learning environment.
Teaching and assessment processes and resources
support learning
The environment becomes consistent and hence
The logistics of IPE?
How do we set-about delivering and facilitating Interprofessional Education (IPE)?
What issues might we encounter?
Often these get in the way, before we even consider
education theory
What difficult logistics might be relevant to your
workplace, when delivering IPE?
A paradigm shift
IPE has required a paradigm shift in professional education
– not just cumulative development
– a real shift from accepted and established approaches,
with huge implications for Health & Social Care policies, for
clinical practice and for organisations.
A new system of relations
Underpinning Theory –
Influence IPE
IPE calls upon:
Borrowed Theory
Unique Theory
Theories should not be in a vacuum - they need to be
useful in practice, for processing and illuminating
Practice as embodied theory
sense of
Contact Theory
Allport 1979 (America Deep South racial tensions) looked
at the route of prejudice between different social groups
and suggested reducing tension results from contact with
memebers of the other group.
(Hewstone and Brown 1986)
Social Identity Theory
Behaviour towards others is determined by both personal
traits and by the group to which they strongly adhere or
belong. Within IPE work linked to looking at how IPE helps
to clarify uni-professional identities.
(Turner 1999)
Social Learning Theory
Cognitive development emphasising the need for social
interaction and inter personal connection between
(Vygotsky 1978)
Social exchange theory
The need to work with other groups for the exchange of
(Challis et al 1988)
Situated Learning Theory
Learning as it normally occurs, is a function of the activity,
context and culture in which it occurs.
Social interaction and collaboration with knowledge
presented in an authentic context – IPE in practice
(Lave 1988 & 1991)
Co-operation theory
Relating to co-operation being required for survival of a
species. Groups do better working in co-operation than
(Axelrod 1984)
Relational awareness theory
Developed through research with health care teams.
Explains why behaviours change under different conditions.
Reflects the need for teams to appreciate which
environment encourages positive behaviours.
(Drinka et al 1996)
Social defence theory
Under stress individuals fall back on uni-professional
working and fail to collaborate and co-operate. Relieving
stress and anxiety in interprofessional situations is vital.
(Menzies 1970)
Loss and change theory
Stress has been associated with IPE which asks people to
change from what they are. People like to keep their
professional identities and feel threatened by their loss.
(Atkins 1998)
Systems theory
Looks at how systems deal with complex problems and in
relation to the NHS how different disciplines work together
as a whole. The work of any one effects all the disciplines
as a whole. Systems theory looks widely at all the players
from stakeholders to professional, person community etc.
(Engel 1977)
Reflective practice has a critical role in ensuring the ‘fit’ of
IPE and closing the theory - practice gap.
Inter-professional Assessment?
Issues associated with the assessment of IPE:
Validity – does it measure what it is supposed to?
Reliability – are the results produced consistent and
Fairness – is the assessment a fair judge and equitable
to all professions?
Practicality – in terms of time and resources for staff
and for students?
Inter-professional Evaluation
Things you may wish to critically reflect upon...
What did you set-out to achieve?
Did you achieve what you wanted? If not, why not?
What worked? Its theoretical basis?
What might you do differently next time?
Allport, G.W.(1979). The nature of prejudice, 24th edition, Perseus Books Publishing L.L.C.,
Cambridge, Mass.
Atkins, (1998). Tribalism, loss and grief: issues for multi-professional education. Journal of
Interprofessional Care, 12 (3): p303-307.
Axelrod, (1984). The evolution of cooperation. Basic Books, New York.
Biggs, J. (2003) Teaching for quality learning at univeresity 2nd edition, Open University Press,
Challis, L., Fuller, S. and Henwood, M.(1988). Joint approaches to social policy. Cambridge
University Press, Cambridge.
Drinka, T.J., Miller, T.F. and Goodman, B.M.(1996) Characterising motivational styles of professionals
who work on interdisciplinary healthcare teams. Journal of Interprofessional Care, 10 (1), p51-61.
Engel, G.L.(1977). The need for a new medical model: a challenge for biomedicine. Science, 196
(4286), p129-136.
Hewstone, M. and Brown, R.(1986). Contact and Conflict in Intergroup Encounters, Blackwell,
Lave J. Cognition in Practice: Mind, mathematics & culture in everyday life. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1988.
Lave, J, and Wenger, E. Situated Learning: legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1991.
Menzies, I.E.P.(1970). The functioning of social systems as a defence against anxiety. Tavistock
Institute of Human Relations, London.
Turner, J.(1999). Some current issues in research on social identity and self categorisation theories.
In: Social Identity, (Eds N.Ellemers, R. Spears and B. Doosjie) , p6-64, Blackwell, Oxford
Vygotsky, L.S. Mind in Society. Cambridge MA: Harvard UP, 1978.
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Learning Styles and Theories