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Enhancing Pediatric Education for Physical Therapy Students Through the Development of Community Partnerships to Facilitate Experiential Learning

A Case Report

Wolden, Mitch PT, DPT, PhD; Anderson, Brittany PT, DPT

Journal of Physical Therapy Education: September 2019 - Volume 33 - Issue 3 - p 236–242
doi: 10.1097/JTE.0000000000000096

Background and Purpose. Doctoral physical therapy (DPT) programs are expected to provide students with educational experiences in classroom and in clinical settings and with all age demographics, including pediatrics. There is significant discrepancy in the delivery and assessment of pediatric content in DPT programs. One effective and evidence-based strategy to address this discrepancy and deliver pediatric content is experiential learning (EL). Our case report illustrates how EL with a symbiotic community partner can enable DPT programs to effectively address the current limitations in direct contact hours and clinical experiences in pediatrics.

Case Description. We formed a structured and formal partnership with a local community fitness and gymnastics facility to provide our students with pediatric EL opportunities outside of the classroom and traditional clinic settings. Each student is required to engage in structured and focused play-based interactions with typically and atypically developing children 1 hour per week for two 8-week EL periods under direct supervision of a certified pediatric clinical specialist.

Outcomes. Students demonstrated appropriate professional behaviors, increased self-efficacy, achievement of the pediatric course learning objectives, and attainment of 3 Academy of Pediatric Physical Therapy essential core competencies. With our community partner, 87% of the children demonstrated improvement in their gross motor skills.

Discussion and Conclusion. Our case report details an innovative approach to use EL to increase the number of direct contact hours with the pediatric population through a symbiotic community partnerships that positions our students to reach entry-level competency with the pediatric population upon graduation.

Mitch Wolden is associate professor in the University of Jamestown Physical Therapy Program at the University of Jamestown, 4190 26th, Avenue South, Fargo, ND 58104 ( Please address all correspondence to Mitch Wolden.

Brittany Anderson is assistant professor in the University of Jamestown Physical Therapy Program at the University of Jamestown.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the printed text and are provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal's Web site (

There was no financial support other than the salaries of the investigators.

Received September 21, 2018

Received in revised form November 16, 2018

Accepted December 12, 2018

Copyright 2019 © Academy of Physical Theraphy Education
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