Effective Physical Therapy Education Through Increased Student Engagement

Effective Physical Therapy Education Through Increased Student Engagement

Rajiv A. Dalal
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9331-7.ch009
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As technology grows, there are many applications into the educational arena. Educators are tasked with incorporating technology in teaching. This is best done through a systematic means to create effective change. The Digital Learning Initiative (DLI) was created with this in mind. This is a case study in the transformation of teaching methods through the DLI. The redesign was centered around the principles of assessment and course mapping. The course was reworked to allow for more feedback and interaction with the instructor. Digital apps were utilized to supplement content. Class sessions changed from traditional lecture into a flipped environment using active learning techniques. After the redesign, students improved in graded performance, as well as in engagement with the instructor and classmates. The instructor also reported increased engagement with students and more in-depth content coverage. Redesign is a dynamic process with some trial and error; however, with a solid framework based on assessment, there is potential for meaningful short and long-term course change.
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The word “educate” comes from the Latin “educare”, which means to lead out (Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary, 2014). The essential role of an educator can hence be thought of as 1) the one that leads and 2) the one that brings out the potential within the learner. Both of these roles likely require a combination of inherent and developed skills on the part of the educator. Development of those skills will likely depend on perception of how education should be approached. Adler (1984) supports the notion that the teacher is like a coach, while Johnson, Johnson & Smith (1991) contrasted the role of a teacher as a “guide on the side” versus a “sage on the stage”. An educator must decide which approach they will take in order to lead their learners. Furthermore, they must be able to adjust their methods according to the needs of the situation (Bean, 2011).

Each educator’s own experiences as a learner may also guide them (Marks, 2015). Educational experiences can be both effective and ineffective at meeting a desired outcome. There are those experiences in which the interest in the subject matter and desire to learn are high, which are met with equal intensity by the instructor. Other times, that intensity is not matched and the learning process falls flat. There are also situations where the desire to learn may not be high, but the instructor has the ability to spark that interest within the learner. My own personal experiences as a learner have fallen under these broad categories. The overlying theme in all these scenarios is the effectiveness of the instruction that occurred. There can be a variety of methods that are effective whether they be traditional classroom models, online platforms, hybrid formats or flipped learning environments (Westermann, 2014).

Whatever the method of delivery, an educator has to be open to attempting different approaches and seeing what works for a particular class or cohort. Many physical therapists in education settings were clinicians first, hence most of their formal training is in the science and art of physical therapy, not in pedagogy. Unlike many of my colleagues, I was fortunate to receive some training on effective teaching practices during the completion of my terminal doctorate degree. What I lacked was the real experience of having the responsibility of many aspiring individuals relying on me to engage them on the multiple levels of being a graduate student. Developing in this area has been a priority since entering academia and is what drew me to the DLI. Through the program’s learning modules and dialogue with peers, I have learned many tools to help engage with my students better. After changing my course with some of these parameters, I have met success in being better adept at meeting students on their level and to have a means of continual engagement as they progress through our 3-year program.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Student Assessment Models: Refers to the wide variety of tools used to evaluate, measure, and document a student’s progression of content knowledge and skills over the duration of.

Higher Education: Education beyond high school, especially at a college or university.

Digital Learning: The acquisition of knowledge or skills of a particular subject using technology.

Collaborative Learning: A guided instructional technique used by classroom teachers to facilitate a student’s eventual independent learning by first engaging in task-based, small group assignments.

Feedback: Information related to a product or outcome used as a basis for improvement.

Physical Therapy Education: Education in a variety of anatomy-based sciences with the terminal degree enabling practitioners to improve patient quality of life.

Student Learning Outcomes: The measurable, by reliable and verifiable assessment, of a student’s knowledge or abilities in a particular content area at the completion of a course or program.

Course Redesign: The action or process of redesigning a course using course mapping tools.

Student Engagement: The fact or condition of being involved in classroom-based activities in an educational setting.

Flipped Classroom: An instructional approach in which traditional learning structures are inverted such that students are introduced to concepts prior to class time, which is then used to deepen students’ understanding of said concept – typically involves an online learning platform.

Clinical-Based Training: Provides students with the opportunity to apply practically their classroom based-knowledge and further develop skills in a real-world setting under the guidance of a licensed professional in their field.

Course Mapping: Visual aids commonly used in course redesign to identify student learning outcomes matched to key assignments and assessments for a particular course.

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