Academic journal article Journal, Physical Therapy Education

Program Assessment in Physical Therapy Education: The Transition to Use of New Criteria

Academic journal article Journal, Physical Therapy Education

Program Assessment in Physical Therapy Education: The Transition to Use of New Criteria

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: Physical therapist programs are required to perform assessments to evaluate program effectiveness and facilitate improvement. Until recently, Section 4 of the Evaluative Criteria for Accreditation of Education Programs for the Preparation of Physical Therapists focused on assessment of program graduates. In January 1998, additional criteria for program assessment became effective. The criteria include evaluation of graduates in addition to 10 program components related to program content, management, and resources, for a total of II assessment criteria. The purposes of this study were: 1) to identify the extent to which programs already assess areas related to the 11 assessment criteria and 2) to learn how academic administrators of physical therapist programs rate the criteria in terms of their importance to program effectiveness. A survey instrument with Likert-type scales was used to gather information from academic administrators of accredited and developing physical therapist programs in the United States. A total of 74 (50%) of the accredited programs and 21 (50%) of the developing programs responded to the survey. For 51 of the 60 items listed in the survey instrument, 90% or more of the respondents indicated they are already actively involved in assessment. The majority of respondents reported that they evaluate the items on a formal basis, indicating that supportive documentation is most likely available. Ninety percent of the respondents rated 10 of the 11 assessment criteria as being important to program effectiveness. Findings may provide useful information to programs as they attend to meeting the new criteria required for accreditation.

INTRODUCTION

Physical therapist education programs strive to provide high-quality instruction and valuable experiences in clinical education to promote high standards of clinical practice. Program assessment is one means of evaluating the effectiveness of education programs and enhancing instructional experiences.1,2 Over the past decade, institutions of higher education have placed greater attention on curriculum evaluation.3-5 Physical therapist programs have long been required to conduct self-studies to evaluate program effectiveness, and many programs have noteworthy curriculum evaluation practices that include extensive assessment activities.

For many years, the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) has encouraged programs to perform assessment activities to evaluate program performance, although guidelines for conducting such evaluations have not always been expressly articulated. The 1992 Evaluative Criteria for Accreditation of Education Programs for the Preparation of Physical Therapists,6 however, recommended the evaluation of program faculty and the curriculum and implemented a specific assessment criterion for program graduates. The accreditation document included Section 4, entitled "Performance of Program Graduates," which directed programs to demonstrate evidence about the performance of their graduates.6 A list of 85 indicators of skills, behaviors, and attitudes was provided, with a suggestion that graduates be assessed using multiple measures, including surveys of clinical faculty, employers, or patients, in addition to the graduates themselves.6

In 1997, the evaluative criteria document for accreditation was revised, and the section on assessment was changed to articulate a more comprehensive approach to program evaluation. The CAPTE released a draft of the revised accreditation standards in which the title of Section 4 was changed to "Program Assessment."7 Although this change in title appears subtle, the emphasis of assessment expectations has been altered substantially. Along with asking programs to assess graduate performance, CAPTE has provided physical therapist programs with guidelines to evaluate 10 additional components related to program content, management, and resources (Figure). …

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