Academic journal article Journal of Physical Therapy Education

Clinical Instructor Credentialing and Student Assessment of Clinical Instructor Effectiveness

Academic journal article Journal of Physical Therapy Education

Clinical Instructor Credentialing and Student Assessment of Clinical Instructor Effectiveness

Article excerpt

Background and Purpose. This study investigated differences between students' assessment of the teaching effectiveness of American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) credentialed clinical instructors (CIs) when compared to student assessments of clinical instructors who are not credentialed CIs. APTA offers a program for CI education and credentialing, known as the Clinical Instructor Education and Credentialing Program (CIECP). Although at the time of this study there were over 12,000 APTA-credentialed CIs, there is little evidence in the literature to suggest that differences exist between student assessments of the teaching effectiveness of APTA-credentialed CIs compared to non-APTA-credentialed CIs.

Subjects. A total of 76 CIs (38 credentialed and 38 non-credentialed) and their students participated in the study, representing 32 universities located across the continental United States.

Methods. Each APTA-credentialed CI-student pair was matched with a non-AP-TA-credentialed CI-student pair from the same class cohort at the same academic program from each participating institution. Demographic data were collected, along with ratings from the New England Consortium of Academic Coordinators of Clinical Education (NEC-ACCE) Student's Evaluation of a Clinical Education Experience. The 2 groups (APTA credentialed and non-APTA credentialed) were compared for differences in 27 CI-specific criteria taken individually and in summation using a non-parametric Wilcoxon signed rank test.

Results. Although the APTA-credentialed CIs scored higher than the non-APTA-credentialed CIs on 22 of the 27 CI-specific criteria, only 2 of these differences were statistically significant. When the student CI ratings for each of the 27 criteria were analyzed in summation, however, the credentialed CIs scored significantly higher than the non-APTA-credentialed CIs (P < .001).

Key Words: Clinical education, Physical therapist, Student assessment, Clinical instructor, credentialing.


Physical therapist clinical education experiences are a critical component of the typical 36-month Doctor of Physical Therapy degree (DPT) education program.1 Academic programs vary in the number and length of their clinical education experiences. Programs may provide for both integrated part-time experiences (half days to several days per week to 4-6 weeks) and full-time (18-58 weeks) internships.2 The purpose of these clinical experiences is to provide students with opportunities to apply theoretical and didactic learning to hands-on clinical practice under the supervision of a licensed practicing physical therapist.1,2,3 The Clinical Instructor (CI) is a licensed physical therapist with at least 1 year of experience as a practitioner.4 Along with the many responsibilities of the physical therapist, the CI also must organize and directly supervise the student's clinical learning experience.5 Quality learning experiences for students typically require the CI to integrate challenging, high-level, decision-making skills related to materials and methods of instruction, quality and quantity of supervision, and strategies to assess student competency.5,6,7

While all states currently require practicing physical therapists to be licensed, some states also require the completion of a specified number of continuing education units (CEUs) for licensure renewal.8 However, beyond recommended voluntary criteria for CIs as described in the American Physical Therapy Association's (APTA's) Guidelines for Clinical Instructors9 and the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) criteria for clinical educators,10 a licensed physical therapist CI is not required to obtain additional education to serve as a CI. Several mechanisms, such as those provided by individual academic programs; clinical education consortia (eg, Texas Consortium for Physical Therapy, Florida Coalition for Physical Therapy, New England Consortium of Academic Coordinators of Clinical Education, New York/New Jersey Clinical Education Consortium, Intercollegiate Academic Clinical Coordinator Council)11; area health education networks (AHECs) (eg, Georgia AHEC, North/South Carolina AHEC); APTA; and individuals with specific expertise in clinical education are currently available to assist practitioners in enhancing their knowledge and skills as CIs. …

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