A qualitative exploration of the characteristics and practices of interdisciplinary collaboration

Maria West, Kobie Boshoff, Hugh Stewart


The Children’s Centres in South Australia are examples of settings requiring the effective collaboration of disciplines from diverse
backgrounds, such as staff from education, health and welfare. Working together across different professional groups is complex
and challenging. Existing literature describing collaboration in early childhood settings focuses on exploring the concept from a single
professional perspective, with limited exploration from multiple professional perspectives. The aim of this study was to describe the
characteristics and practices of collaboration in well-established Children’s Centre teams from multiple professional perspectives. It is
anticipated that this description can result in strategies for other teams in similar interdisciplinary settings.

A systematic review was conducted summarising the literature on the characteristics and practices of collaboration in Children’s
Centres, followed by a descriptive qualitative study. Team members from two centres participated in focus groups, thematic analysis
was undertaken and findings of both phases were integrated.

Characteristics and practices that support constructive teamwork were identified, with the central theme of leadership and the interrelated
sub-themes including: development of team cohesiveness; supportive team processes, as well as working within and between
government departments. The study contributes to the understanding of the complexity and inter-relatedness of the characteristics and
processes involved in collaboration, highlighting the importance of leaders in supporting the collaboration of disciplines from different
professional backgrounds.

Key words: collaboration, teamwork, Children’s Centres, qualitative, early childhood


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ISSN 0038-2337 (print), ISSN 2310-3833 (online)

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