Students’ Perceptions of Critical Thinking before and after Instructional Strategies for Critical Thinking
Purpose: Critical thinking skills (CTS) are important to make safe clinical decisions and provide quality care in today’s healthcare environment that emphasizes low cost and quick benefits. Physical therapy educators strive to include different methods in the curriculum to develop CTS. It is important to consider physical therapy (PT) students’ perceptions of their own CTS and changes in these perceptions after instructional strategies for development of CTS. The purpose of this research was to assess physical therapy students’ perceptions of their CTS and changes in these perceptions after targeted instructional strategies based on students’ expectations. Methods/Description: Seventy-two PT students anonymously completed a questionnaire before and after an applied clinical course in neurological PT. The questionnaire included 1) three open-ended questions to assess perceptions of critical thinking and, 2) eight Likert scale based questions to assess the perceptions of their own CTS. Three evaluators with different backgrounds in PT education independently analyzed text answers for theme identification. A theme with 100% agreement among the three evaluators was a confirmed theme, while those identified by only two evaluators were emerging theme. Likert scale data was analyzed for central tendency and frequencies. Results/Outcomes: For perceptions of critical thinking, two confirmed themes included ‘analyzing options’ and ‘finding solution’. For CTS in PT, the confirmed themes included ‘clinical decision making’ and ‘patient management’; while emerging themes included ‘individualizing care’, ‘thinking outside the box’. Overall, two major domains of ‘analyses’ and ‘PT-specific clinical reasoning’ were identified as the primary expectations by the students for instructional strategies. Likert scale data analysis showed that students’ perceptions of their abilities to have a creative approach to solve problems and make critical discriminations between alternatives changed after exposure to targeted instructional strategies. In contrast, perception of ability to analyze other people’s ideas objectively by evaluating both advantages and disadvantages did not show changes. Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: Targeted instructional strategies based on students’ expectations and perceptions of their CTS influenced certain perceptions of CTS. Our findings indicate that investigation of students’ perceptions of CTS may guide future instructional methods that promote the development of these CTS.