Teacher Perspectives of Interdisciplinary Coteaching Relationships in a Clinical Skills Course: A Relational Coordination Theory Analysis

Michelle M. Daniel*, Paula Ross, Renee E. Stalmeijer, Willem de Grave

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Phenomenon: Interdisciplinary coteaching has become a popular pedagogic model in medical education, yet there is insufficient research to guide effective practices in this context. Coteaching relationships are not always effective, which has the potential to affect the student experience. The purpose of this study was to explore interdisciplinary coteaching relationships between a physician (MD) and social behavioral scientist (SBS) in an undergraduate clinical skills course. We aimed to gain an in-depth understanding of what teachers perceive as influencing the quality of relationships to begin to construct a framework for collaborative teaching in medical education. Approach: A qualitative study was conducted consisting of 12 semistructured interviews (6 MD and 6 SBS) and 2 monodisciplinary focus groups. Sampling was purposive and aimed at maximal variation from among 64 possible faculty. The data were analyzed using the constant comparative method to develop a grounded theory. Findings: Five major themes resulted from the analysis that outline a framework for interdisciplinary coteaching: respect, shared goals, shared knowledge and understanding, communication, and complementary pairings. Insights: The first 4 themes align with elements of relational coordination theory, an organizational theory of collaborative practice that describes how work roles interact. The complementary pairings extend this theory from work roles to individuals, with unique identities and personal beliefs and values about teaching. Prior studies on coteaching have not provided a clear linkage to theory. The conceptual framework helps suggest future directions for coteaching research and has practical implications for administrative practices and faculty development. These findings contribute to the sparse research in medical education on interdisciplinary coteaching relationships.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-151
Number of pages11
JournalTeaching and Learning in Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • medical education
  • coteaching
  • relational coordination theory
  • interdisciplinary teaching
  • CARE


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