Assessing DPT student participation across the curriculum


Assessing participation in a DPT curriculum often lacks uniformity and objectivity. Each course instructor has the discretion to determine the amount of participation allotted to the final grade and determine a method for assessing participation. The purpose of this presentation is to discuss the curricular-wide assessment of participation, creation of a universal rubric and implementation of the rubric.


Participation grades are often utilized in coursework within physical therapy education with the intent of promoting students to be more active and engaged with classroom activities and discussion. However, assessment of participation is often subject to significant bias and lacks objectivity. Following formal assessment of the DPT curriculum during accreditation activities, utilization of participation grades were highly variable without standard assessment processes. Fifty percent of courses did not include an allocation for participation in the final course grade, but did have an expectation within the syllabus. The remaining 50% of courses allocate a portion of the final grade to student participation ranging from 4-50% of the final grade (mean +/- SD = 14.3% +/- 11.9). Several courses had rubrics for assessment that were based mostly on frequency of participation and had little objective measurement of quality of involvement1. The faculty developed a simple, easy-to-use participation rubric based on five dimensions. The goal of the rubric is to explicitly represent the expectations for participation to both the student and instructor2. Additionally, the rubric enhances the consistency of grading participation and saves time for the instructor3. We utilized the Part-by-Part Development process that included description of the task, identification of the dimensions, determination of scale levels and description of the dimensions4.


A grid format rubric with 5 independent dimensions as rows and 5 scale levels as columns4. The dimensions include active class engagement, attendance, professional behavior, task-oriented and preparedness. The scale levels range from Excellent to Unacceptable. Each corresponding box on the grid contains specific description of the dimension. The dimensions were derived by a group of faculty members throughout the entire curriculum. The broad-based rubric was designed to include writing intensive, lecture and laboratory courses.
The rubric was reviewed and modified by faculty. It was adopted by the department and incorporated into each class that has participation as part of the final grade. Additionally, a copy of the rubric was placed into the DPT student handbook and is reviewed during student and new faculty orientation.

Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: The Pursuit of Excellence in Physical Therapy Education

Participation is a challenging item to assess objectively within a physical therapy curriculum. The process of assessment of participation grades led to development, adoption and implementation of a structured grid-style rubric that has been utilized in half of the courses in the curriculum.


1. Lunney M, Sammarco A. Scoring Rubric for Grading Students’ Participation in Online Discussions. Computer, Informatics, Nursing. 2009; 27(1): 26-31.
2. Ambrose SA, Bridges MW, DiPietro M, Lovett MC, Norman MK. How Learning Works. CA: Jossey-Bass; 2010: 40-65
3. Davis BG. Tools for Teaching. CA: Jossey-Bass; 2009: 325-336.
4. Stevens DD, Levi AJ. Introduction to Rubrics. VA: Stylus Publishing; 2005.

BACK to Abstract Results

  • Control #: 2526102
  • Type: Platforms
  • Event/Year: ELC2016
  • Authors: Scott Burns, Jane Fagan
  • Keywords:

BACK to Abstract Results