Changes in Critical Thinking and Problem Solving in Integrated Clinical Experiences
Purpose/Hypothesis: Physical therapy (PT) curriculum includes clinical experiences (CE) and integrated clinical experiences (ICE). These experiences assist in developing critical thinking (CT) and problem solving (PS) skills. There are few guidelines for ICE structure and limited research to support improvement in CT and PS skills over the duration of an ICE. The purpose of this study was to examine if two sequential neuromuscular focused ICEs were effective in improving CT and PS skills. Number of Subjects: Thirty students enrolled in the second year Neuromuscular ICEs were conveniently selected. Materials and Methods: The CT and PS professional behavior sections of the Professional Behaviors Assessment Tool was utilized as the measurement instrument. The Professional Behaviors Assessment Tool has ten sections. Each section is further broken down into developmental levels including beginner, intermediate, entry and post entry. Each level includes behavioral criteria to describe the students’ performance at each level. In each of the neuromuscular focused ICEs, the clinical instructors (CI) highlighted behavioral criteria observed in the CT and PS sections. The clinical instructors’ assessment was completed at the eighth week of a ten week neuromuscular ICE in both the fall semester (pre) and spring semester (post). The Wilcoxon signed-rank test was used to assess the data Results: The participants showed significant improvement (p=.001) in all developmental levels of the CT and PS professional behaviors except the post-entry level. Conclusions: In conclusion, students in two sequential neuromuscular ICEs demonstrated improvement in CT and PS professional behaviors as measured by the criteria in the Professional Behaviors Assessment Tool. This study expanded upon previous literature to provide examples of utilizing ICEs to improve student CT and PS student performance. A limitation of this study is the use of the individual professional behaviors, CT and PS, from the Professional Behaviors Assessment Tool. Future research is needed to create and validate a more effective tool for measuring CT and PS skills in PT students. Clinical Relevance: Due to the challenges in clinical education the utilization of ICEs could possibly be an option to improve students’ CT and PS skills.