Exploring a Brave New Virtual World: Strategies to Promote Dpt Student Professionalism & Moral Reasoning


There is limited consensus regarding optimal strategies for promoting professionalism and moral reasoning in DPT students. Research from the cognitive developmental perspective supports small group case discussion for promoting moral reasoning. Moral deliberation research suggests that trained facilitators are critical in small group deliberation. The increasing use of distance or blended learning strategies has raised new questions regarding educating for professionalism and moral reasoning. This session describes the integration of virtual and on-line formats into educational strategies to promote professionalism and moral reasoning.


A traditional in-class educational model in the USF professional track has been evolving to a more blended model through the creation of online experiences to augment classroom activities. Learning experiences include lectures, online self-directed modules, group presentation, practice setting panel, legal issues, mock house of delegates, professionalism coaching and small-group case discussion. A key feature of the track is a series of 4 three-hour faculty-facilitated small group ethics case discussion. Faculty facilitators receive a guide and faculty development. Each student has an assigned role (facilitation, feedback, reporter, current health policy discussion). The decision of the university to provide all content remotely in response to the recent pandemic provided an opportunity for the faculty team to evaluate the results of student-facilitated small group discussion and professionalism coaching provided in the virtual environment.


Faculty anticipated that students would not favor the online delivery method and expressed concerns about the lack of faculty facilitation. Although some students agreed that discussion without the expertise of a faculty member was challenging, they also appreciated the modeling provided in previous facilitated sessions. Others found that the online environment encouraged freer and less formal discussion due to the absence of a perceived power differential. When the delivery transitioned to online, the students were provided a more active role and enhanced autonomy to schedule and facilitate discussions. Students generally believed that the experience of learning how to approach a case with faculty physically present, provided a foundation for a productive peer-driven case discussion. Some students reported feeling less anxious about virtual meetings than in-person meetings for professionalism coaching. Finally, students appreciated the flexibility offered by the choice of meeting in a synchronous or asynchronous virtual format.

Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme:

Both online and in-person delivery methods were effective for student learning when clear expectations and educational parameters were provided. Our experience suggests that providing a structured faculty-facilitated small group discussion may prepare students for successful student-facilitated learning. Students enjoyed the ease and flexibility of virtual discussion. An innovative hybrid delivery technique with mindful course construction and evaluation may yield similar outcomes as in-person strategies for promoting professionalism and moral reasoning.

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  • Control #: 26825
  • Type: Platform Presentation - Non-Research Type
  • Event/Year: ELC2020
  • Authors: Bini Thomas
  • Keywords:

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