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Demonstrating Teaching Expertise to Achieve Professional Goals

Flannery Wainwright, Susan PT, PhD; Brueilly, Kevin PT, PhD

Journal of Physical Therapy Education: September 2019 - Volume 33 - Issue 3 - p 175–176
doi: 10.1097/JTE.0000000000000123

Susan Flannery Wainwright, professor and chair, Department of Physical Therapy, Thomas Jefferson University, 901 Walnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19107 ( Please address all correspondence to Susan Flannery Wainwright.

Kevin Brueilly, professor and chair, Department of Physical Therapy, Augusta University.

It's what you learn after you know it all that counts.

—John Wooden

Previous editorials in this journal, as well as writings and statements by leaders in our profession, have discussed the importance of developing our capacity for educational research to demonstrate value of education and its excellence. Another important element that we as educators need to attend to is the development of teaching expertise. All too often, physical therapists enter academia confident in clinical or research expertise, but possess limited pedagogical knowledge or skills. Accompanying this limited knowledge is a lack of awareness of the science and theoretical underpinnings of teaching and learning.

The approaches that each of us has used to achieve expertise in clinical practice can be applied to developing expertise in the practice of teaching. And we advocate that faculty develop their knowledge and skills in pedagogy and the learning sciences and create a learner-centered orientation with the dedication applied to the pursuit of clinical expertise obtained through clinical practice and advanced credentials and degrees.

Parker Palmer stated that “Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.”1 This passage is an important reminder that each of us as an educator should create a “teaching philosophy” statement. There is great value in creating an explicit statement of your aspirations for yourself as an educator and expectation of what you want your learners to achieve. Sharing your teaching philosophy affords the opportunity for educators to communicate their identity and integrity and affirm commitment within their community of practice.

The Physical Therapist Education for the 21st Century (PTE-21) Study developed numerous recommendations that serve as a call for action for physical therapist education.2 The recommendations focused on the Praxis of Learning, specifically those identified within Practice-Based Learning that speak about the individual and collective responsibilities which we as faculty should adopt and advocate for within our respective institutions to achieve teaching expertise. The recommendations highlighted here provide direction for development as well as identify meaningful outcomes for educators.

  1. Implement faculty development programs/activities focused on teaching and learning strategies grounded in the learning sciences, as the profession must develop a shared language, understanding of, and competence in the pedagogy of learning for practice. The learning that occurs in the context of practice (situated learning) is powerful and critically important in the development of professionals and should be a central focus of faculty development.
  2. Develop models of learning environments across academic and clinical settings centered on practice-based learning with a clear visibility of active clinical teaching, classroom/lab teaching, research, and practice. The situated learning that is central to practice-based learning needs to be intentionally structured and sequenced and occur early, often, and continuously.
  3. Require academic programs to participate in residency education. This provides essential opportunities for interaction, mutual reflection, and reciprocal teaching and learning between professional and postprofessional learners in communities of practice.

Essential to actualizing these recommendations into aspirations and goals includes creating a culture of excellence that values teaching and infrastructure to foster growth within our respective institutions. Chick et al3 have developed a framework that details 5 necessary components of teaching expertise (Figure 1). These 5 components are both fluid and iterative recognizing the influence of context on the development of expertise. No one component is a pre-requisite for another, and focus may move between the elements dependent upon context. In the collective, these 5 components contribute to a learning-centered orientation. It is not a coincidence that these 5 components are evident in the recommendations of the PTE-21 study.

Equally important is that this framework recognizes a continuum of development (from exploration, to engagement and finally expansion) for the educator. Progression along this continuum may occur initially at an individual level or within a cohort of faculty. As faculty become engaged, expansion beyond the individual to include others within an organization should be recognized and promoted. Synergistically, as faculty develop teaching expertise, the resources and processes necessary to sustain a community of teaching and learning that achieves teaching excellence will be created.

Within our respective programs and institutions, we are somewhere along this developmental continuum and have varying levels of infrastructure and resources to support these 5 components described in Fink's framework for the development of teaching expertise. Taking inventory of the current state is an important first step to establishing priorities and goals to advance teaching to achieve expertise. As faculty and administrators, we must then advocate for and create the infrastructure and resources necessary to achieve these goals.

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1. Palmer P. The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life. 2008, Josey-Bass, San Francisco, CA. P. 39.
2. Jensen GM, Nordstrom T, Mostrom E, et al. National study of excellence and innovation in physical therapist education: Part 2—a call to reform. Phys Ther. 2017;97:875–888.
3. Chick N, Kenny N, Berenson C, et al. Developing a Learning Culture: A Framework for the Growth of Teaching Expertise. Faculty Focus. 2018. Accessed July 7, 2019.
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