Exploring interdisciplinary professionalism through creativity and diversity

Dr Kwang Meng Cham1, Dr Anu Polster1, Dr Guy Morrow1

1The University Of Melbourne

Introduction/background: There is a paucity of research into interdisciplinary learning of professionalism that facilitates creativity and diversity.

Aim/objectives: We evaluated students’ experiences participating in interdisciplinary group work that facilitated creativity and diversity in a gallery/museum to learn about professionalism.

Methods: Students from Biomedicine, Oral Health, Dentistry, Optometry, Arts and Film/TV explored a gallery/ museum to choose an artefact that relates to professionalism. Quantitative and qualitative data were analyzed.

Results: A total of 30 students participated in the study. There was strong agreement from all students that this group work increased their understanding in professionalism across different disciplines. It has augmented their professional development, with approximately 90% of the students reporting that the task had helped improve their communication and inter-personal skills. Themes identified from the essays and interviews included intrinsic motivation, divergent and convergent thinking, own construction of understandings of professionalism and scheduling difficulties.

Discussion: Students found that this project encouraged them to diverge their thinking and gave them a wider view into what professionalism could entail. The existence of various moral compasses is inevitable in real life and students learnt to compromise, negotiate and to resolve their differences. Allowing this process, the students were then able to think convergently in order to complete their projects. Conceptual elaboration and transfer in relation to students‘ learnings of professionalism were achieved beyond a dictionary definition.

Conclusions: This study gave the students an opportunity to think metaphorically about professionalism. The multisensory nature of interactions with both the artefacts in the gallery/museum, and with each other provides an opportunity to provoke, stimulate, inspire, and act as a conduit for emotions, ideas, meaning-making, self-exploration, and creativity.


Dr. Cham is an optometrist and a senior lecturer at the University of Melbourne. His educational scholarship interests include using digital technologies for feedback and assessment, interprofessional education and interdisciplinary object-based learning engaging with material culture.

Dr. Cham has received numerous educational research grants and has presented at national and international conferences on the scholarship of teaching and learning. He is currently a fellow of the Melbourne Academy and a member of the Australian and New Zealand Association for Health Professional Educators.

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