An Evidence-Supported Approach to Engaging Students in Classroom, Clinic, and Computer-Based Environments


The purpose of this educational session is to articulate the theoretical framework for strategies which maximize student engagement and describe how faculty in entry-level DPT and PTA programs may utilize these in their teaching.

Methods and/or Description of Project

After providing, an overview of theory which outlines aspects of learning experiences which motivate students to learn and enhance engagement levels, the presenter will lead a discussion focused on specific approaches faculty may integrate into their teaching. In doing so, the presenter will summarize supportive literature, and illustrate examples demonstrating incorporation of these stategies into classroom, clinical, and online learning environments. Lastly, suggestions to encourage faculty colleagues within a program to form a collective effort to strive for greater levels of student engagement across all courses will be provided.


Research on learning suggests that when appropriately integrated into learning experiences, certain instructional strategies have the potential to improve motivation and engage students. Examples which will be illustrated during this presentation include: 1) Assessing cognitive load and designing learning experiences accordingly 2) Providing regular opportunities for students to respond during learning, and receive frequent feedback 3) Maximizing the relevance of the learning experience 4) Designing vivid, sensory classroom experiences which sharpen focus and aid memory 5) Implementing timely approaches which enhance self-efficacy and 6) Minimizing opportunities for divided attention. Identifying a plan for engaging faculty in regular discussions about student engagement and sharing individual ideas will facilitate the implementation of these approaches across a variety of learning that occurs throughout the physical therapy curriculum.

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

Engagement is a precursor to meaningful learning and in its absence students have minimal opportunity to consider, process, or internalize information for the purpose of subsequent application. Achieving sufficient engagement across the curriculum is the first step in accomplishing excellence in Physical Therapy education. Engagement can be a powerful tool which aids faculty in improving outcomes by reaching greater numbers of learners enrolled in a physical therapy cohort.


Ambrose, S.A., (2010). How Learning Works. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, CA.

Bunce, D. M., Flens, E. A., & Neiles, K. Y. (2010). How Long Can Students Pay Attention in Class? A Study of Student Attention Decline Using Clickers. Journal of Chemical Education., 87(12), 1438-1443.

Criss, M., Grieve, S., Cook, J. (2016). Teaching with Multimedia: Applying Evidence to Enhance Learning. Platform presentation at the Combined Sections Meeting of the American Physical Therapy Association, Anaheim, CA.

Lebec, M., Kesteloot, L., (2015). Overcoming Content Associated Challenges Using Attention-Focused Methods. Journal of Excellence on College Teaching, 26(3), 25-56.

Middendorf, J., & Kalish, A. (1996). The “change-up” in lectures. National Teaching and Learning Forum, 5(2), 1-5.

Miller, M., (2014). Minds Online. Harvard University Press. Cambridge Massachusetts.

Miller, M. D. (2011). What College Teachers Should Know about Memory: A Perspective from Cognitive Psychology. College Teaching.

Newman, M. (2010). New media, young audiences and discourses of attention: from Sesame Street to 'snack culture'. Media, Culture, & Society, 32(4), 581-596.

Savion, L., & Middendorf, J. (1994). Enhancing concept comprehension and retention. The National Teaching & Learning Forum, 3(4), 6-8.

Sousa, D. (2006). How the brain learns, 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Toto, J., & Booth, K. (2008). Effects and Implications of Mini-Lectures on Learning in First-Semester General Chemistry. Chemistry Education Research and Practice., 9, 259-266.

Course Objectives

After this session attendees will be able to:

1. Understand and articulate the manner in which theoretical constructs such as cognitive load, memory, self-efficacy, and relevance influence student engagement.
2. Identify strategies which enhance engagement in a variety physical therapy educational environments.
3. Design learning experiences which utilize methods that elevate engagement levels amongst enrolled students.
4. Develop a plan for improving engagement across a physical therapy curriculum.

Instructional Methods

Specific methods used in this presentation will include lecture presentation interspersed with small group discussion, opportunities for participant reflection and response, and demonstration of select specific methods and technologies which may be used to enhance learner engagement.

Tentative Outline/Schedule

0 – 15: Overview of theoretical constructs correlated with engagement during learning experiences.

15 - 30: Summary of evidence linking engagement and meaningful learning

30 – 1:00: Implementing methods designed to enhance learner engagement and illustration of specific examples

1:00 – 1:15: Facilitating a collaborative effort to enhance engagement amongst faculty and across the curriculum

1:15 - 1:30: Questions and discussion

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  • Control #: 2526287
  • Type: Educational Session
  • Event/Year: ELC2016
  • Authors: Dr. Michael Lebec
  • Keywords:

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