Background and Purpose.
International service learning (ISL) is an instructional method used by physical therapist educators to increase the global perspective of students. Research exploring student experiences with ISL is plentiful, but evaluation of service outcomes from the community partner perspective is lacking. The purposes of this work were to evaluate the impact of a long-term community partnership through: (1) identification of benefits, drawbacks, and suggestions for sustaining the partnership and (2) gathering feedback on the immediate and short-term perspective of training provided to orphanage staff.
Method/Model Description and Evaluation.
The model consisted of a curriculum-based ISL experience involving a US-based physical therapy program and a service site at an Ecuadorian orphanage. For the current work, an evaluation component was added to the model. Three complementary approaches: the SOFAR Model, Exchange theory, and the partnership qualities of closeness, equity, and integrity informed the evaluation. Data consisted of 6 interviews conducted and 17 surveys administered to Ecuadorian community partner staff/administration. Data were analyzed using qualitative thematic content analysis, descriptive statistics, and paired t tests.
Partnership benefits included: iterative pre-trip communication, a respectful and mutually beneficial relationship, capacity building through education, and physical therapy that positively affected the children's quality of life. Drawbacks were the potential for host site dependency due to lack of local capacity, negative impact of new technology on staff workload, and poor treatment carryover. Continued training was identified as critical for building capacity within orphanage staff.
Discussion and Conclusion.
As more US student teams deliver clinical services abroad, intentional evaluation approaches must include the community partner voice to maximize benefits, minimize burdens, build capacity, and addresses issues of vital importance to the service site.