Utilization of Community Volunteer Participants for a Structured Clinical Reasoning Experience for the Beginner Learner


Learning sciences support the utilization of teaching and learning strategies that incorporate experiential learning into physical therapy curricula for developing clinical reasoning (CR) in the beginner learner. Exposure to authentic patient scenarios provides the beginner learner with the necessary context to develop psychomotor skills and practice CR and self-reflection skills in a structured setting. Additionally, faculty guided small group experiences in a structured environment provide the beginner learner with necessary modeling to further drive expectations related to the CR process. The purpose of this curricular innovation was to develop a novel and authentic Òpatient-basedÓ experience to provide context for psychomotor skill acquisition while fostering development of CR skills early in physical therapist studentsÕ training.


Thirteen community volunteer participants (CVP) were recruited for a beginner learner experience. Student groups (n=13) prepared for a full patient encounter including taking a patient history, performing a physical examination, developing a plan of care, and performing interventions specific to the CVP. Students utilized a team-based approach facilitated by a faculty mentor, including briefs and huddles, to perform the encounter. Post-encounter, students completed an individual self-assessment and self-reflection, discussed and justified their clinical decisions, and received structured faculty feedback. A grading rubric was utilized to assess psychomotor skills and CR and to structure faculty feedback.


Evaluative data include assessment scores, course evaluations, and structured student focus groups. Students report high satisfaction with the experience emphasizing the opportunities to engage with ÒpatientsÓ early in the curriculum and described a sense of accomplishment following the experience. They also stated that they felt more prepared for the clinical experience that immediately followed this experience.

Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme:

Providing unique opportunities for beginner learners to participate in a structured CR process and apply clinical skills early in their training resulted in high student satisfaction. Using authentic patient context simultaneous to knowledge and skill acquisition aligns with learning theory and evidence regarding CR development in the beginner learner.

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  • Control #: 26812
  • Type: Platform Presentation - Non-Research Type
  • Event/Year: ELC2020
  • Authors: Amy McDevitt
  • Keywords:

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