Setting the Stage: Infusing Generalized Empirical Method into Service Learning to Guide Professional Development


To describe Bernard Lonergan’s Generalized Empirical Method (GEM) as afoundational pedagogy to promote discovery of the mindful process of knowing to enhance DPT student’s critical thinking, decision making and professional judgement.


As professionals, DPT students must demonstrate critical thinking, effective decision making and judgment for professional practice. To foster these abilities students need to develop habits of exploring and questioning to synthesize and integrate knowledge from within to outside the classroom. Immersion within experiential learning provides a pathway for students to accept and develop their role as leader, advocate,and change agents. Within a service learning seminar faculty infused 0th century philosopher Lonergan's GEM approach to inquiry, understanding and knowledge. This method promotes discovery of strategies involved in process of knowing and application to foster insight and judgement, elements of critical thinking and decision making. Attention was given to GEM principles; the art of questioning and process of uncertainty, as pathway for self -reflection as student’s transition into their role and responsibility as advocates. Prior to community engagement classroom discussions centered on topics of mission, servant leadership, service learning, professional values, reflection, critical thinking, and GEM. The conversation regarding uncertainty and uncomfortableness within the community environment and its importance for gaining new insight facilitated active engagement of students to “set the stage” for their service learning experience. Faculty generated questions guided student submitted reflections. Students identified key insights gained by following this thoughtful process which evoked formulating questions, seeking solutions and making pertinent decisions to create and execute a fitness day for children/adolescents with special needs.


Students participating in semester long service learning project developed new insights for their role and responsibility as servant leaders. Through reflection they identified key insights garnered as a result of following a thoughtful process which evokes formulating questions, seeking solutions and ultimately making pertinent decisions that will guide and facilitate their professional development.
As faculty the infusion of GEM as the foundational pedagogy within service learning seminar has helped to sharpen the doctoral students’ insight and judgment of their critical thinking skills as emerging professionals.


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

As physical therapy profession is rapidly evolving educators should rethink current pedagogical methods and identify innovatives to enable student to develop effective decision making and critical thinking. The GEM process of knowing through experiencing, understanding and decision making/judgment offers a novel approach to set the stage for emerging professionals.


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Grallo R and Damien D. Facilitators and blocks in student self-regulation of learning: A qualitative study. J Advan Ed Res. 2007;3(1):67-72.
Grallo R. What is critical thinking? Faculty Summer Seminar. Seton Hall University.2012
Kelly S. and Miller E. Education for service:development of service learning course. J Phys Ther Ed. 2008;22(1):33-43.
Liddy R. Startling Strangeness: Reading Lonergan’s Insights. Maryland: University of America Press; 2007

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  • Control #: 2290601
  • Type: Posters
  • Event/Year: ELC2015
  • Authors: Irene DeMasi, Catherine Maher
  • Keywords:

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