The integration of contemporary active learning strategies for teaching specialty practice content


Vestibular disorders and correlation with increased risk for falls1 is increasingly clear with many studies identifying vestibular conditions across the lifespan.2,3,4 While current vestibular rehabilitation (VR) curriculum meets requirements for accreditation by CAPTE,5 physical therapy programs need to enhance learning experiences beyond basic vestibular content to confirm their graduates are meeting societal need.

Experts in the field of teaching and learning physical therapy suggest exposure to content through learning opportunities which closely simulate clinical practice will enhance student learning and clinical reasoning.6 Contemporary active learning strategies(CALS) may include role playing7, problem based learning around clinical cases8 and collaborative learning using a flipped classroom9. This study aimed to advance entry level curriculum in VR by analyzing current practice, integrating a variety of CALS that simulate current practice, and assessing student learning. The results reported are learning outcomes and student perceptions specific to integrating CALS when teaching novel psychomotor skills in the lab setting.


A focus group of faculty and clinical experts in VR identified current expectations for entry level students. Revisions were made to a VR lab as follows: online videos of VR techniques to facilitate a flipped classroom approach, case based application of psychomotor skills during lab time, and role playing the patient-therapist interaction. After participation in the advanced learning opportunity, 62 PT students in their second year of school completed a competency check-off to assess psychomotor and clinical reasoning skills for VR. Student feedback regarding the effectiveness of the learning experience was obtained via an electronic survey after completing a subsequent 6-week clinical experience.


Students scored an average of 8.98/10 points (range 5-10 points) on the competency exam with one outlier scoring less than 7.5 points. 34 students (55% response rate) responded to the post-clinical assessment of student learning and feedback. 94% of the students reported the learning experiences for the lab session were effective or very effective in helping them learn about VR. Students reported practical application, visual media, and competency testing as positive factors in facilitating their learning. Areas to enhance were live demonstrations, more practice time, and real patient encounters.

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

Integration of CALS into laboratory environments to teach specialty psychomotor skills is feasible. Students identified practical application as a strong benefit to this teaching strategy. A variety of learners in physical therapy education may support the need to continue research on teaching frameworks that emphasize blended teaching styles.


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2. Ward BK, Agrawal Y, Hoffman HJ, Carey JP, Della Santina CC. Prevalence and impact of bilateral vestibular hypofunction: Results from the 2008 National Health Interview Survey. JAMA Otolaryngol head Neck Surg. 2013;139:803-810.

3. Corwin DJ, Wiebe DJ, Zonfrillo MR, Grady MF, Robinson RL, et al. Vestibular deficits following youth concussion. J Pediatr. 2015;166:1221-1225.

4. Ahearn DJ, Umapathy D. Vestibular impairment in older people frequently contributes to dizziness as part of a geriatric syndrome. Clin Med. 2015;15:25-30.

5. Evaluative Criteria for Physical Therapist Programs. Commission on Accreditation for Physical Therapy Evaluation (CAPTE). . Published October 26, 2004. Accessed November 10, 2014.

6. Christensen N, Nordstrom T. Facilitating the teaching and learning of clinical reasoning. In: Jensen GM, Mostrom E. Handbook of teaching and learning for physical therapists. 3rd ed. St Louis, MO. Butterworth-Heinemann, an imprint of Elsevier Inc; 2013:183-199.

7. Boissonnault W, Morgan B, Buelow J. A comparison of two strategies for teaching medical screening and patient referral in a physical therapist professional degree program. J Phys Ther Educ. 2006;20:28-36.

8. Castro-Sanchez AM, Aguilar-Ferrandiz ME, Mataran-Penarrocha GA, Inglesias-Alonso AA, Fernandez-Fernandez MJ, et al. Problem based learning approaches to the technology education of physical therapy students. Medical Teacher. 34:e29-245.

9. Pluta WJ, Richards BF, Mutnick A. PBL and beyond: Trends in collaborative learning. Teaching Learning Med. 2013;25:S9-S16.

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  • Control #: 2527350
  • Type: Platforms
  • Event/Year: ELC2016
  • Authors: Dr. Heather Knight, Lisa Black, Kelly Nelson
  • Keywords:

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