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J Allied Health. 2006 Spring;35(1):30-42.

Fostering reflective practice: self-assessment abilities of physical therapy students and entry-level graduates.

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  • 1College of Health, Division of Physical Therapy, The University of Utah, 520 Wakara Way, Suite 302, Salt Lake City, UT 84108, USA.


Adopting the American Physical Therapy Association Clinical Performance Instrument, physical therapy (PT) interns are required to self-assess, hence the need for development of self-assessment abilities. The purpose of this research was threefold: (1) to develop an interview guide instrument to gather qualitative data, (2) to investigate the experience of self-assessment of PT students and new graduates, and (3) to identify training needs and propose a plan to incorporate self-assessment for PT lifelong learners. This study evaluated the self-assessment abilities of PT learners by investigating the following self-assessment components: (1) abilities and skills, (2) barriers and/or support, (3) training needs, and (4) essential elements for development. The sample consisted of 11 PT learners and internal and external evaluative committee members. Qualitative and evaluative methods were implemented to generate data addressing research questions related to (1) interview instrumentation; (2) self-assessment, with data gathering through semistructured interviews; and (3) evaluative examination of the plan to incorporate self-assessment. Data were analyzed for emerging codes and themes, synthesized, and recontextualized. Formative and summative evaluative committees validated the interview guide instrument and proposed plan for incorporation of self-assessment. Core themes emerged pertaining to specific aspects of self-assessment, including requirements, areas for improvement, motivational and promotion factors, and activities that facilitate self-assessment. Participants exhibited self-assessment abilities, encountering obstacles and support, important to health care professionals, educators, and clinical faculty. Training needs were identified for PT learners and for clinical and academic faculty. These findings parallel with Schön's concept of reflective practice and Bandura's social learning theory. The self-assessment plan includes practice improvement components viable for health professions education.

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