National study of excellence and innovation in physical therapist education: Part 1-design, method, and results

Gail M. Jensen, Terrence Nordstrom, Elizabeth Mostrom, Laurita M. Hack, Janet Gwyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Background. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching commissioned the Preparation for the Professions Program, a qualitative study of professional education in 5 professions: medicine, nursing, law, engineering, and clergy. These studies identified curricular structures, instructional practices, assessment approaches, and environmental characteristics that support the preparation of professionals and led to educational reforms. The physical therapy profession has not had any in-depth, national investigation of physical therapist education since the Catherine Worthingham studies conducted more than 50 years ago. Objectives. This research was a Carnegie-type study, investigating elements of excellence and innovation in academic and clinical physical therapist education in the United States. Design. Five physical therapist education researchers from across the United States used a qualitative multiple-case study design. Methods. Six academic and 5 clinical programs were selected for the study. The academic institutions and clinical agencies studied were diverse in size, institutional setting, geography, and role in residency education. Qualitative case studies were generated from review of artifacts, field observations, and interviews (individual and focus group), and they provided the data for the study. Results. A conceptual framework grounded in 3 major dimensions was generated, with 8 supporting elements: (1) culture of excellence (shared beliefs and values, leadership and vision, drive for excellence, and partnerships), (2) praxis of learning (signature pedagogy, practice-based learning, creating adaptive learners, and professional formation), and (3) organizational structures and resources. Conclusion. Building on the work of the Carnegie Foundation's Preparation for the Professions Program, a conceptual model was developed, representing the dimensions and elements of excellence in physical therapist education that is centered on the foundational importance of a nexus of linked and highly valued aims of being learner centered and patient centered in all learning environments, both academic and clinical.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)857-874
Number of pages18
JournalPhysical therapy
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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