Historical evolution and impact of non-cognitive assessment in physical therapy admissions


The purpose of this educational session is to discuss core components and processes of admission to physical therapy education programs and highlight the impact of non-cognitive assessment of applicants. The evolution of the weighting systems used in the decision-making process will be examined and its impact on program decisions.

Methods and/or Description of Project

This educational session will discuss the role of non-cognitive assessment in admissions processes in physical therapy education programs, and examine the historical impact and evolution of these assessments within a program. Upon examination of admissions interviews over the course of years of data, impact on student cohort construct, student qualifications, and programmatic and student outcomes can be interpreted. As a doctoring healthcare profession, it is not only important to identify applicants who have demonstrated strong academic achievement, but who also display the ability to translate their academic success in the rigorous professional curriculum while embodying the professional and affective behaviors necessary to represent the physical therapy profession and the individual institution from which the student will graduate. It is also important to recognize the responsibility that physical therapy education programs have to outcomes assessment for the student population and the program. Thus the aim for this presentation will maintain a focus on evaluating the impact that admissions decisions have on both student and program outcomes.

According to PTCAS, only 58% of physical therapy education programs currently conduct applicant interviews as a component of their admissions process, and 56.8% plan to incorporate interviews in the next admissions cycle. Recent discussions among ACAPT have involved admissions and interviewing, and previous presentations have focused on the importance of non-cognitive assessments in physical therapy education. Recent literature has demonstrated that cognitive factors have some predictive ability for academic success in graduate healthcare academic programs.. Further, although academic performance may be explained through cognitive achievements of the past, these factors explain little in regard to clinical performance. In contrast, the “multiple mini interview” has demonstrated some validity for predicting clinical performance. In addition, there have been no recent formal discussions on the impact that interviews can have on student cohort construct, overarching qualifications within a student body, and reporting on the successes of these students in both the program and NPTE

This session will also integrate brief case studies spanning nearly 8 years of non-cognitive assessments of physical therapy applicants. Cohort and individual student analyses will be integrated to demonstrate the utility of non-cognitive assessment in admissions and tracking of student performance within the curriculum and post-graduation. Examination of the student cohort composition will also be included to demonstrate the overall impact that integration of the interviews into the decision-making process, with additional consideration to the historical changes in the admissions rubrics. Time will also be devoted to discuss cases, processes, assessments, through the session so that attendees can learn of several mechanisms to integrate effective use of admissions that meets the individual needs of their programs.


Attendees of this session will learn of the following:
current landscape of physical therapy admissions
importance of integrating non-cognitive assessment of applicants
ideas for non-cognitive assessment of applicants in alignment with their program’s institutional mission
effective means for multi-dimensional assessment through interviewing applicants

Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: Through the Looking Glass: Transforming Physical Therapy Education

This education session is aligned with the conference theme, Through the Looking Glass: Transforming Physical Therapy Education and the sub-theme “Admissions Perspectives and Challenges – Where are we now?”. As we train doctors of physical therapy, we need to focus education efforts on both traditional academic skill and knowledge, as well as professional traits. Traditional higher education admission typically does not focus on those professional traits, which are the pride of our profession. To move physical therapy education forward, educators should strive to not only instill these traits in their students during the PT curriculum, but also work to identify those applicants who demonstrate them through during the admissions process. Further, this session’s alignment with physical therapy admissions will be met through discussion of the historical evolution of factors included in admissions and the organic process in which programs take to implement, evaluate, and revise from year to year in order to meet their institution’s needs. By working with the program faculty to identify those processes which effectively identify applicants possessing sought-after academic abilities and affective and professional behaviors, programs can successfully achieve their missions. A fully closed loop process can be demonstrated by tracking these behaviors “from beginning to end” within a program and post-graduation instead of relying on the educational program to instill these sometimes inherent traits, and hoping they translate into clinical practice. Adding the focus to the “beginning” will demonstrate the institution’s commitment to these traits of the profession and specific institution, and outcomes can be tracked if provided as a consistent focus by the program.


Eva, K. W., Reiter, H. I., Trinh, K., Wasi, P., Rosenfeld, J., & Norman, G. R. (2009). Predictive validity of the multiple mini interview for selecting medical trainees. Medical Education, 43(8), 767-775.
Jones, P.E., Simpkins, S., Hocking, J.A. (2014) Imperfect physician assistant and physical therapist admissions processes in the United States. Journal of Education Evaluation for Health Professions, 11 (11), 1-7.
Lemay, J. F., Lockyer, J. M., Collin, V. T., & Brownell, A. K. W. (2007). Assessment of non cognitive traits through the admissions multiple mini interview. Medical Education, 41(6), 573-579.
O’Neill, L., Hartvigsen, J., Wallstedt, B., Korsholm, L., & Eika, B. (2011). Medical school dropout testing at admission versus selection by highest grades as predictors. Medical Education, 45(11), 1111-1120.
Patterson, F., Knight, A., Dowell, J., Nicholson, S., Cousans, F., & Cleland, J. (2016). How effective are selection methods in medical education? A systematic review. Medical Education, 50(1), 36-60.
Roberts, C., Walton, M., Rothnie, I., Crossley, J., Lyon, P., Kumar, K., & Tiller, D. (2008). Factors affecting the utility of the multiple mini interview in selecting candidates for graduate entry medical school. Medical Education,42(4), 396-404.
Schripsema, N. R., Trigt, A. M., Borleffs, J. C., & Cohen Schotanus, J. (2014). Selection and study performance: comparing three admission processes within one medical school. Medical Education, 48(12), 1201-1210.
Siu, E., & Reiter, H. I. (2009). Overview: what’s worked and what hasn’t as a guide towards predictive admissions tool development. Advances in Health Sciences Education, 14(5), 759-775.
Yates, J., & James, D. (2006). Predicting the “strugglers”: a case control study of students at Nottingham University Medical School. BMJ, 332(7548), 1009-1013.

Course Objectives

The objectives of this session are as follows:
Discuss the current practice of admissions across institutions for physical therapy education, as well as the evolution of these practices and how they are implemented, evaluated, and revised
Identify potential pitfalls in considering applicants solely on the basis of quantitative academic scores
Demonstrate the importance and benefits of integrating structured interviews into the admissions process to align with professional and programmatic needs
Evaluate and propose possible methods of identifying critical traits and characteristics of applicants that will best represent the institution and physical therapy profession
Assess impact of non-cognitive assessment on program outcomes
Demonstrate mechanisms to track student progression through the professional program in clinical and academic performance as well as other initiatives important to the program (service, professional duty, etc.).

Instructional Methods

This educational session will incorporate lecture presentation with small group discussion to integrated throughout the session to meet the learning objectives. Case studies will be introduced as a method of demonstration to represent key concepts and constructs through the session.

Tentative Outline/Schedule

Overview of current physical therapy admissions process nationally and how it has evolved
Review of literature including other health professions (Physician assistants, nursing, medicine)
Discussion regarding cognition versus non-cognition trait identification
Review challenges and barriers to implementing non-cognition assessments
Identify potential solutions and benefits to using these assessments
Targeted admission case-studies are reviewed to demonstrate key concepts
Historical data on cohost construct
Historical data on trends in admissions rubric weightings
Cohort clinical and academic formative and terminal outcomes, alignment with non-cognitive assessment (8 years)
Outline future directions of research to assist physical therapy educators in selecting optimal admissions assessment tools
Open Group Discussion

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  • Control #: 2751604
  • Type: Educational Session
  • Event/Year: ELC2017
  • Authors: Dr. Patrick Pabian, Samantha Moya, Nicole Dawson, James Sonne, Erin Brown
  • Keywords:

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