Early Observations Following Implementation of Peer Lead Structured Supplemental Instruction in a PT Program
Purpose: Peer teaching and learning strategies have been utilized both formally and informally throughout the history of physical therapy education as a means to enhance student success. In the current environment for educating health care professionals, intense academic programs are balancing institutional resources and expectations with meeting the needs of today’s learners. Benefits of peer tutoring include an expanded resources base to promote student learning, reduction in the burden of teaching demands on already strained faculty resources, and improved student outcomes resulting in higher retention and graduation rates from institutions. Literature supports even peer tutors benefit beyond monetary compensation because they learn to coordinate, consolidate and conceptualize their own knowledge. Methods/Description: In a response to both institutional goals to improve student retention and a program goal to provide additional learning opportunities for students, The Mount St. Joseph University (MSJU) Physical Therapy Program (PTP) developed a Structured Supplemental Instruction (SSI) program. This program is a form of peer tutoring designed to provide group review sessions for students that targets difficult courses and/or conceptual content within the DPT curriculum. SSI group review sessions are conducted by trained peer tutors with preparation, oversight, and input provided by core faculty instructing the targeted courses. SSI sessions transpire no less than on a weekly basis. Particular content covered in each session is based on participant requests submitted through discussion board post utilizing course management software prior to each session. During SSI sessions, peer tutors employ various teaching strategies to facilitate didactic learning, psychomotor skill development and development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The program is administered and monitored by both the institution’s Learning Center and by the PT program faculty. Peer tutors are recruited by core faculty and are largely comprised of current second and third-year students in the program. The program is available to all enrolled DPT students regardless of whether they are experiencing academic difficulty or not. Results/Outcomes: The initial results following five semesters of SSI implementation are that the program provides a useful and efficient mechanism to assist students with the challenging and monumental curricular requirements of the PTP. These results are based on qualitative and observational data that includes: faculty and learning center monitoring of attendance of SSI sessions, faculty monitoring of posted discussion board questions, student feedback to faculty (solicited and unsolicited), feedback from peer tutors (solicited and unsolicited), reduced requests for individual peer tutoring thus reducing the strain on Learning Center resources, and most importantly student success. Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: Literature supports that peer tutoring has positive benefits to a variety of stakeholders involved in the education of today’s health care providers including students, the peer tutors, faculty members, and the institution. Some of the specific benefits improved academic success of students, improved confidence and deeper breadth of understanding of material by tutors, alleviation of strain on faculty time devoted to supplemental instruction outside of the classroom, fiscally responsible on university resources and improved retention and graduation rates. The SSI program implemented at MSJU PTP program has demonstrated some of these same findings. Further, formalized investigation of the impact of this program is warranted to fully understand the influence this program has on all stakeholders.