Subject -centered and problem -based approaches to teaching clinical competence in physical therapy

Ana Maria Villarreal Hilton, Florida International University


Physical therapy students must apply the relevant information learned in their academic and clinical experience to problem solve in treating patients. I compared the clinical cognitive competence in patient care of second-year masters students enrolled in two different curricular programs: modified problem-based (M P-B; n = 27) and subject-centered (S-C; n = 41). Main features of S-C learning include lecture and demonstration as the major teaching strategies and no exposure to patients or problem solving learning until the sciences (knowledge) have been taught. Comparatively, main features of M P-B learning include case study in small student groups as the main teaching strategy, early and frequent exposure to patients, and knowledge and problem solving skills learned together for each specific case. Basic and clinical orthopedic knowledge was measured with a written test with open-ended items. Problem solving skills were measured with a written case study patient problem test yielding three subscores: assessment, problem identification, and treatment planning. Results indicated that among the demographic and educational characteristics analyzed, there was a significant difference between groups on ethnicity, bachelor degree type, admission GPA, and current GPA, but there was no significant difference on gender, age, possession of a physical therapy assistant license, and GRE score. In addition, the M P-B group achieved a significantly higher adjusted mean score on the orthopedic knowledge test after controlling for GRE scores. The S-C group achieved a significantly higher adjusted mean total score and treatment management subscore on the case study test after controlling for orthopedic knowledge test scores. These findings did not support their respective research hypotheses. There was no significant difference between groups on the assessment and problem identification subscores of the case study test. The integrated M P-B approach promoted superior retention of basic and clinical science knowledge. The results on problem solving skills were mixed. The S-C approach facilitated superior treatment planning skills, but equivalent patient assessment and problem identification skills by emphasizing all equally and exposing the students to more patients with a wider variety of orthopedic physical therapy needs than in the M P-B approach.

Subject Area

Adult education|Continuing education|Rehabilitation|Therapy|Health education

Recommended Citation

Hilton, Ana Maria Villarreal, "Subject -centered and problem -based approaches to teaching clinical competence in physical therapy" (2005). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3190950.