Use of Reflection to Promote Metacognition in a PTA Course
Background and Purpose: It is well established that PT and PTA programs need to actively facilitate critical thinking for student success in the clinic (Domenech and Watkins 2015). Facilitating critical thinking, to promote clinical reasoning in the PTA student, is a constant challenge for PTA programs. “Metacognition refers to one’s knowledge concerning one’s own cognitive processes or anything related to them, e.g., the learning-relevant properties of information or data (Tanner 2012 p. 113). Metacognition has been identified as a key to clinical reasoning by physical therapist instructors (Christensen 2017, Hahn 2017) and as important characteristic of successful students in the clinic from clinical supervisors (Chiphouse et al 2012). Most PTA programs do not have clinical experiences until after the second semester, therefore encouraging metacognition promoted early in the PTA curriculum when classes are primarily didactic could be helpful to facilitate critical thinking. Reflection can be tool to assist in this process. Case Description: Utilizing the survey tool in the Blackboard LMS 1st year PTA students were encouraged to fill out a brief survey regarding how they did after an assessment (quiz, exam, project) after every assessment in their 115 Kinesiology course, the second in 2-semester sequence. The survey tool allows the instructor to see who completes the survey but blinds the results. Each survey contained between 2-4 opened-ended questions designed to make the student consider their success, or lack of it, on the assessment and consider what they could do differently in the future. Typical questions included “How did you do” “Do you think you could have done better” “What could you do different in the future? Students were given a few extra credit points for completing the surveys, prorated according to how many surveys they filled out. Outcomes: At least 50% of the 21-person class filled out every survey. The answers were downloaded into an excel file, and then results were cut and pasted into word documents. The answers were manually word-searched to look for responses that featured student self-analysis and any common themes. Every survey had at least one or two comments that indicated significant self-reflection of that particular student’s learning ability or technique. The comments both supported the current teaching methods of the instructor while highlighting areas that would benefit on greater focus. Discussion: Tanner (2012) notes James Dewey’s observation that understanding our own learning is arguably more important then what we actually learn. Successful PTAs are by definition life-long learners, and the ability to think critically and clinically reason grow out of a PTA student’s understanding of their own learning process. If students are to be successful in clinic, developing metacognition in classes early in the curriculum can help students develop critical thinking and clinical reasoning skills, prior to formal clinical education. Utilizing surveys in Blackboard is a relatively simple and effective way to assist in the process as well as giving instructors some immediate feedback to determine the effectiveness of what they are doing.