This mentorship project gave third year students (TYS) the opportunity to participate in the clinical education of a physical therapist student, while at the same time providing second year students (SYS) with a personal mentor to guide them through the process of reflection. Reflection encourages deeper learning by allowing the learner to analyze his/her actions, recognize personal biases, identify errors and preventative strategies, and connect with prior learning. Expert physical therapists regularly utilize reflection. However, new learners attempting to reflect may retell/describe the experience rather than truly analyzing it.
The reflection process develops critical thinking skills and informs clinical reasoning. One approach to facilitating reflection is the near peer model, where a student is mentored by another student who is advanced in the education program by at least one year. Success of the model may be attributed to the theory of cognitive congruence. A peer mentor has cognitive processes that closely resemble the learners. Students feel more comfortable approaching a peer with no authoritative power when disclosing errors or uncertainties.
All TYS were matched with SYS embarking on their first clinical experience (CE). The assignment given to the TYS was to act as mentor to SYS during their initial CE. The assignment given to the SYS was to identify two critical incidents during the CE and email those incidents to their mentor. To prepare the TYS for their role as mentor, they learned about the types of reflection. Examples of questions utilized to facilitate reflection were presented and sample practice situations were provided. To prepare the SYS for their role as mentee, the concept of a critical incident was explained and examples were provided. One month before the CE, a mentor/mentee luncheon was held. Conversations were semi structured with guiding questions provided to the TYS. Once the SYS were in the clinic and emailed a critical incident, the TYS were expected to ask the mentee appropriate questions to encourage reflection. The SYS were expected to reply to those reflective questions. All students submitted a reflective essay at the completion of the CE.
In their post experience essays, mentees remarked that they learned to employ reflection as a result of this experience. Additionally, the use of a peer mentor provided them with a nonjudgmental safe place to bring up critical incidents where there was uncertainty or concern. Mentors noted how the experience was helpful in preparation for their future roles as CIs. Some students mentioned the struggle of wanting to provide all the answers vs. facilitating the SYS to finding their own answers.
Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: The Pursuit of Excellence in Physical Therapy Education
The TYS received real world CI experience and enhanced their skills as facilitators. The SYS were guided through the process of reflection enhancing critical thinking skills and allowing for deeper learning
Buccieri, K. M., Pivko, S. E., & Olzenak, D. L. (2013). Development of an Expert Clinical Instructor: A Theoretical Model for Clinical Teaching in Physical Therapy. Journal of Physical Therapy Education, 27(1), 49–5.
Jette, D. U., Bertoni, A., Coots, R., Johnson, H., McLaughlin, C., & Weisbach, C. (2007). Clinical instructors’ perceptions of behaviors that comprise entry-level clinical performance in physical therapist students: a qualitative study. Physical Therapy, 87(7), 833–43. doi.org/10.2522/ptj.20070003
Ladyshewsky, R. K. (2000). Peer-assisted Learning in Clinical Education: A Review of Terms and Learning Principles. Journal of Physical Therapy Education, 14(2), 15-22.
Plack, M.M., & Driscoll M. (2011). Teaching and Learning in Physical Therapy: From Classroom to Clinic. Thorofare, NJ: Slack Inc.
Solomon, P., & Crowe, J. (2001). Perceptions of Student Peer Tutors in a Problem-Based Learning Program. Medical Teacher, 23, 181-186.