This past February, at the Combined Sections Meeting (CSM) of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), the Editorial Board of the Journal of Physical Therapy Education led an exciting discussion on the development of an educational research agenda for the profession of physical therapy.
It is the editors’ perspective that, just as is true for our clinical research colleagues, those engaged in educational research need to pursue research that results in the best evidence for policy makers. Research conducted with the best possible design and methodology can inform good educational decisions in many areas, including education for learners in the classroom and the clinic, across entry and post-professional education, patient education, curriculum development, and institutional processes for education.
To this end, the editors have encouraged researchers to adopt strong research principles, including selection of appropriate design, use of standardized outcome measures, and collaboration to increase participant numbers. In addition, we have encouraged the consideration of mixed methods to explore educational questions. We have clearly stated that work that demonstrates equivalency between educational methods can be of value by providing educators with viable options. Researchers have responded by increasing the quantity and quality of current work.
This work, however, is still being done in the absence of a contemporary, well-articulated education research agenda for the profession of physical therapy. While there are items related to educational research included in APTA's Clinical Research Agenda,1 they do not constitute a cohesive and organized agenda for the profession.
The CSM session provided the opportunity for over 70 educational leaders to begin a discussion on what should be included. We asked all participants to identify items they wanted to see in a research agenda and then to work in groups to develop the top ranked items to include. The items developed at the meeting are shown in Table 1. They provide some excellent topics, all worthy of exploration, and we thank the participants for their careful thought on this issue.
We challenge educational researchers to consider these important topics as they plan their own individual research agendas.
Leaders from APTA, the Education Section, and the American Council of Academic Physical Therapy (ACAPT) were present at the meeting and indicated their desire to work to together to develop a formal agenda. In addition, leaders from the Foundation for Physical Therapy commented on the importance of a formal agenda to improve funding opportunities for educational research. While supportive, the conversation stopped short of a specific plan to make an education research agenda for the profession a reality.
We challenge APTA, the Education Section, and ACAPT to make the development of an education research agenda a high priority, with rapid determination of the best process to use, and with completion of the process within the next year.
1. Goldstein MS, Scalzitti DA, Craik RL, et al. The Revised Research Agenda for Physical Therapy. Phys Ther.