Embedding a Writing Curriculum into a Doctor of Physical Therapy Program
Purpose: To describe a writing curriculum and formative writing-assessment process embedded within a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program and in partnership with a University Writing Center Description: University of Colorado DPT faculty observed that many students struggled with the writing during the Capstone course, specifically: a) sentence-level concerns (e.g., grammar, syntax, and carrying fragmented phrasal writing from clinical documentation into academic writing); b) tone (informality); c) concision; and d) organization of thought. Often, students who struggled the most with writing also struggled with clinical reasoning. A Faculty Task Force solicited the help of the University’s Writing Center (WC) to collaboratively design/implement a longitudinal, course-embedded curriculum: • Professional Development 1 (semester 1): 4 asynchronous online modules including textual and multimedia instruction and short writing assignments. Topics include Professional Email & Communication, Academic Paraphrasing and Citation, Writing Academic Paragraphs, and Sentence-Level Concision & Cohesion. Assignments are evaluated by trained Writing Center consultant-evaluators (WC evaluators). WC evaluators provide feedback and identify students requiring WC-provided remediation. • Musculoskeletal Conditions 1 (semester 3): The WC provides didactic writing instruction. Faculty and WC staff collaboratively designed a research-driven argumentative assignment prompt and writing-skill-focused rubric. WC evaluators execute a double-blind, normed, and double-scored/averaged evaluation of student submissions. ~10-15% of students are identified for required intervention/support involving 1:1 session followed by narrative reflection/focused revision. • Professional Development 2 (semester 5): The WC provides facilitated writing workshops on cover letters and resumes. In addition, students submit a 2nd writing assignment (collaboratively designed prompt/rubric, narrative/reflective focus), with remediation/support for the lowest-performing students. • Clinical Reasoning Capstone (semester 6/final): Didactic instruction on concision, passive vs. active voice, and sentence-level cohesion. In addition, the WC teaches and models effective peer review in writing, a hallmark of the Capstone course. Finally, the WC provides 10 weeks of focused one-on-one writing support available only to DPT students. Observed outcomes: a) increased attention to the importance of academic and professional writing/communication; b) decreased faculty time and energy spent teaching and responding to student writing concerns; and c) decreased Capstone faculty concern regarding student writing competence required for graduation and career preparation. Summary of Use: Presenters will describe the writing assignments, rubrics, presentation topics, and levels of both optional and required intervention/support and provide attendees with samples of materials as well as an outline of the longitudinal approach. Importance to Members: • Students may feel more supported, prepared, and confident about their scientific and professional communication; • Faculty may experience more freedom from providing writing feedback and assessment, allowing them more time to focus on PT content • Graduates may enter their field as stronger writers/communicators, which reflects well on the program and the profession.