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Physical Therapy Student Choices When Engaging With Traditional or Technological Teaching Resources

van Kessel, Gisela BAppSci(Physio), DrPH; Gill, Robyn BAppSci(Physio); Milanese, Steve BAppSci(Physio), PhD

Journal of Physical Therapy Education: September 2018 - Volume 32 - Issue 3 - p 283–288
doi: 10.1097/JTE.0000000000000058
Research Report

Introduction. Student engagement with both face-to-face and online sessions is becoming increasingly important as a metric of teaching success. Understanding engagement needs to move beyond positioning the student as a generic learner and explore the variations in person and context that will enable a transformative approach to blended learning arrangements. This article investigates physical therapy students' perceptions regarding resources they choose to engage with to support their learning.

Methods. One hundred and fifteen (59% female); average age 21.7 years; 7.8% international students in the Bachelor of Physiotherapy and Master of Physiotherapy programs at the University of South Australia. A questionnaire with open-ended questions was administered in class and provided data on students' preferences and perceptions regarding resources that support their learning. Students' attendance, online resource usage, and grade point average were collected and used to explore themes emerging from the data.

Results. Students with higher grades described their own behaviors that assisted their learning while students with lower grades focused on external barriers that limited their learning. Participants chose to attend class because this enabled them to ask questions, access explanations and demonstrations, increase concentration, pick up nonverbal communication, and access teacher support. Participants chose to use online activities because this supported them to work at their own pace, or at an optimal time, or concentrate more.

Discussion. Participants reported making choices based on perceptions that a particular behavior would contribute to the immediate process of learning or assessment outcomes, rather than long-term goals such as being able to provide the best patient care. Classroom delivery is successful for students who attribute social interaction as a key aspect to their effective learning while online delivery formats meet the needs of students who engage better in private contexts.

Conclusion. Engagement success may increase if face-to-face sessions have flexible access, while online activities include opportunities for interaction and support.

Gisela van Kessel is a senior lecturer of physiotherapy at University of South Australia, North terrace, Adelaide, South Australia 5000, Australia and a member of International Centre for Allied Health Evidence ( Please address all correspondence to Gisela van Kessel.

Robyn Gill is a lecturer of physiotherapy at Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia.

Steve Milanese is a senior lecturer of physiotherapy at University of South Australia, North terrace, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia and a member of International Centre for Allied Health Evidence.

The research was supported by a teaching and learning grant from the University of South Australia. The University of South Australia did not influence the authors in the study design, collection, analysis, interpretation or writing of the research.

The authors declare no conflict of interests.

Received March 15, 2018

Accepted March 30, 2018

Copyright2018 (C) Academy of Physical Therapy Education, APTA
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