Purpose: To describe the perceptions of peer evaluation as an instructional method when used by entry-level doctor of physical therapy students as preparation for practical examinations within a clinically oriented course.
Forty first year, entry-level DPT students participated in structured peer- skills checks prior to practical exams as part a clinically based course. The peer-skills checks are peer-evaluation activities used to develop skills across the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains of learning.
Each student was required to observe and provide critical feedback for at least four other students as they performed patient care activities. Peer-evaluators rated the students on their level of competency with the skills using a Visual Analog Scale. Peer-evaluators were also required to provide written feedback specifying areas of strength and areas needing improvement.
Following conclusion of the course, students completed a questionnaire using online survey software. The questionnaire was designed to investigate student perceptions related to skill acquisition, giving and accepting feedback, and the overall value of peer-feedback.
Themes emerged regarding the value of practice and repetition, emerging reflective practice skills, emerging critical thinking and problem solving skills, and the use of peer feedback for improved performance.
The value of practice and repetition was reflected in statements such as the skills checks “helped me organize my interviews…and get over my fear of the unknown” and “required us to practice and run through different clinical situations...We knew what we needed to improve on.” Emerging reflective practice was demonstrated by comments such as “[s]eeing other people's methods and comparing it with my own made me improve”, “helps me recognize my own strengths and weaknesses” and "made me self-reflect on my abilities to perform skills.” The development of clinical reasoning and problem solving skills were evidenced by student comments such as “[we] came across varied scenarios challenging critical thinking skills”, “the skills check helped me think through what to do when things did not go as planned...” and "I had to think on my feet.” The value of feedback was reflected in comments such as “It helped me refine my skills and develop the areas that aren't as strong”, “I embraced the feedback...I could work on my weaknesses”.
Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: Through the Looking Glass: Transforming Physical Therapy Education
Literature supports peer evaluation as an instructional tool within allied health education; however, minimal research has been completed within the field of physical therapy education and no studies to date have been completed with entry-level DPT students. Based on the results of this study, entry-level DPT students perceive peer-evaluation as an effective instructional method to assist in developing psychomotor skills necessary for patient care, as well as, affective skills necessary for reflective practice and cognitive skills related to clinical reasoning.
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Keywords: Peer-evaluation, feedback, reflective practice, clinical reasoning, education