Designing Interprofessional education that makes a difference: the spectacles story

Prof Mary Butler1, Senior Lecturer Machiko Niimi2

1University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia, 2Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin, New Zealand

Interprofessional, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary practice are increasingly emphasised in healthcare education and practice. Increasing specialization means that it is difficult for a single individual to integrate all the insights that are relevant to a particular complex problem. Effective solutions require collaborative and integrative approaches, which includes not only different disciplinary and professional perspectives, but also the affected community stakeholders. Successful collaboration tend to include diverse perspectives, the construction of common ground, the capacity to negotiate conflicts, and the development of a synthesis (McMurty, 2013). This paper describes an interprofessional collaboration between students and teachers from different disciplines in tertiary education (product design and occupational therapy) and pupils and teachers from a primary school. The problem that they addressed over a period of two years arose from the fact that many children fail to receive adequate eye health services, which has an impact on their education. Students were responsible for developing a unique concept of ‘peer to peer’ vision screening; they co-created a novel flipchart and they embedded this concept in a curriculum about vision science and eventually embedded this material online (in The Science Learning Hub). This study builds on previous work by the authors (Niimi et al, 2020) where the significance of an artefact (the ‘flipchart’) was examined in the context of how it enabled rapid design decisions. In this paper the narrative of a ‘successful project’ is unpacked to explore how the elements of interprofessional education might be replicated.


Professor Mary Butler is the academic lead for occupational therapy at the School of Allied Health Science and Practice at the University of Adelaide. Prior to this she was the inaugural professor at the School of occupational therapy in Otago, New Zealand. Mary specialises in doing pragmatic research that links research with advocacy, and which positions her students to do work that can make a real difference. She has a sustained commitment to community collaborations, which become the site for interprofessional fieldwork and communities of practice.

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