Integrating the human movement system into DPT curriculum: Building a movement-based foundation for physical therapy students.


The purpose of this educational session is to provide educators with an example of how the human movement system can successfully be integrated into physical therapy curriculum.

Methods and/or Description of Project

The APTA’s vision statement, “Transforming society by optimizing movement to improve the human experience,” and Identity statement, “physical therapists will define and promote the movement system as the foundation for optimizing movement to improve the health of society,” highlight the important role physical therapists as movement experts play in a person’s quality of life. These statements lead to questions about physical therapy education: Are we adequately preparing students to be movement experts?; Do our students understand how components of the movement system interact to optimize movement, and how optimal movement is related to full participation in society?; and What curricular changes need to be made to accomplish these goals? This session will provide educators with an example of how one program answered these questions and successfully integrated the human movement system into the DPT curriculum.

Prior to review of the DPT curriculum, we identified our expectation of DPT graduates; graduates of our program will be movement experts, capable of identifying the factors that contribute to decreased quality of movement and how a lack of optimal movement contributes to activity limitations and decreased participation in society. This session will describe the process used to (1) systematically analyze the existing curriculum for human movement system content, and (2) identify content necessary to achieve the desired learning outcome of graduating movement experts. It was discovered that much of our existing curriculum emphasized examination and intervention of body structure impairments, not functional movement impairments. The goal was to enhance the focus on the human movement system and the development of movement experts that focused on functional movement. In this session we will describe how we implemented changes to the curriculum including the framework and specific content utilized to build student knowledge as they gained the skills necessary to be a movement expert.


Through developing a curriculum that emphasizes a human movement system approach to physical therapy education, students graduate from our program completing evaluations and designing interventions that focus on optimizing function and improving quality of life.

Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: Shaping the Future of Physical Therapy Education

Developing innovative curricula integrating the human movement system will move the physical therapy profession towards the APTA vision statement by enhancing the education of future DPT students as they strive to be human movement experts. By sharing our experiences developing and implementing this curriculum, we hope to stimulate discussion and action that will move our profession and professional education forward.


1. Beattie PF, Silfies SP. Improving Long-Term Outcomes for Chronic Low Back Pain: Time for a New Paradigm? Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy. 2015; 45 (4): 236-239.
2. Nyland JA. Redirecting the Thrust to Put “Therapeutic” Back Into Therapeutic Exercise. Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy. 2015;45(3):148-150.
3. Powers CM. The influence of altered lower-extremity kinematics on patellofemoral joint dysfunction: A theoretical perspective. Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy 2003; 33(11): 639-646
4. Sahrmann SA. Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes. St. Louis, MO, USA: Mosby; 2002.
5. Sahrmann SA. Movement System Impairment Syndromes of the Extremities, Cervical, and Thoracic Spines: Considerations for Acute and Long-Term Management. St. Louis, MO, USA: Elsevier Mosby; 2011.
6. Sahrmann SA. The Human Movement System: Our Professional Identity. Physical Therapy. 2014; 94(7): 1034-1042.

Course Objectives

Upon completion of this course, participants will be able to:
1. Describe the human movement system and how it relates to the APTA Vision and Identity Statements
2. Describe how to analyze curriculum for movement system content
3. Describe how integration of the human movement system into curriculum leads to a movement-based examination
4. Give examples of how enhanced integration of the human movement system into DPT curriculum can improve critical thinking and clinical reasoning
5. Give examples of where in the participant’s own curriculum human movement system content could be enhanced.

Instructional Methods

Lecture, small group discussion, question/answer

Tentative Outline/Schedule

15 minutes: Overview of APTA Vision and Identity, the human movement system, and why it is important for the human movement system to be the foundation for DPT education.
10 minutes: Break out for attendees to discuss how the human movement system is currently addressed in their curricula.
30 minutes: Review of integration of human movement system into a DPT curriculum.
15 minutes: Discussion of challenges to integration of human movement system into DPT curricula and potential strategies for overcoming challenges.
10 minutes: Break out session for attendees to discuss how the human movement system may be further integrated in their DPT curricula.
10 minutes: Questions/Discussion

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  • Control #: 2289910
  • Type: Educational Session
  • Event/Year: ELC2015
  • Authors: Sara Scholtes, Elizabeth Ikeda
  • Keywords:

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