This paper is the first of two that highlights key elements needed for consideration in the planning and implementation of interprofessional educational (IPE) interventions at both the pre and post-licensure qualification education levels. There is still much to be learned about the pedagogical constructs related to IPE. Part 1 of this series discusses the learning context for IPE and considers questions related to the "who, what, where, when and how" related to IPE. Through a systematic literature review that was conducted for Health Canada in its move to advance Interprofessional Education for Patient Centred Practice (IECPCP), this paper provides background information that can be helpful for those involved in an interprofessional initiative. A historical review of IPE sets the international context for this area and reflects the work that has been done and is currently being initiated and implemented to advance IPE for health professional students. Much can be learned from the literature related to the pedagogical approaches that have been tried and the issues that need to be addressed related to the learner, the educator and the learning context which this paper examines.