Hean, Sarah, O'Halloran, Cath, Craddock, Deborah, Hammick, Marilyn and Pitt, Richard (2013) Testing theory in interprofessional education: Social capital as a case study. Journal of Interprofessional Care, 27 (1). pp. 10-17. ISSN 13561820

Theory is essential to understand our interprofessional educational (IPE) practice. As a discipline, IPE has moved from being widely atheoretical to having a plethora of theories imported from the psychosocial disciplines that have utility to understand, articulate and improve IPE practice and evaluation. This paper proposes that when taking this deductive approach to theoretical development in IPE, a greater focus must now be placed on the rigorous testing of these theories within the IPE context. It synthesizes two approaches to achieving this, using the social capital theory as a case study, and focuses on the first two stages of this synthesis: first, the identification of the concepts and propositions that make up a theory within the study context and second, the value-based judgments made by the researcher and other stakeholders on the utility of these propositions. The interprofessional student group is chosen as a possible exemplar of a social network and theory-derived concepts and propositions are identified and classified within this context. With a focus on physical network characteristics, validation of these propositions with a sample of IPE educationalists is described. We present a range of propositions specifically related to the size and mix of IPE student groups, the frequency and level with which students participate in these as well as some of the existing evidence that have explored these propositions to date. Refined propositions and the way forward in the future application and empirical testing of social capital theory in IPE are presented.

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