Student Assessment Methods in Physical Therapy Education: An Overview and Literature Review

Article excerpt

Introduction. Student assessment is an important aspect of the physical therapy curriculum. It should he used to motivate students, correct mistakes, measure transfer of learning, evaluate instructional effects, and identify inappropriate student behaviors. The purpose of this overview and literature review is to consider student assessment methods and indicate how they can be applied to physical therapy education. Materials. A qualitative overview of relevant resources is presented. Results. Traditional assessments such as objective or essay tests are familiar and useful for measuring certain types of knowledge. Alternative assessments differ from traditional assessments in that students are asked to perform, create, or produce something significant that is related to both previous instructional activities and realworld applications. Discussion and Conclusions. All assessment methods should be linked to the intended learning outcomes, be meaningful for students, and be applied fairly to all students. Instructors should he concerned about issues of validity and reliability as they develop and revise assessment took.

Key Words: Evaluation methods, Formative assessment, Learning outcomes, Physical therapy education, Student assessment methods, Summative assessment.


Student assessment is, at bottom, a research process aimed at gathering valid and reliable data with regard to how well a group of students are doing in achieving the learning outcomes that are intended by the faculty.1(p48)

Analyzing student learning has always been an important part of teaching, but the recent movement toward reform and increased accountability has placed a growing emphasis on how students are assessed in all educational settings.2 Accurate assessment of student learning should be an important topic for educators in all fields. The broad category of assessment includes all of the methods used to determine the extent that students have achieved the intended learning outcomes.2 Assessment should address any or all of the following: individual student learning, student progress and areas of weakness, establishment of mastery or competence in a specific area, and comparison of student achievement relative to other groups.3 Assessment is a vital aspect of the physical therapy curriculum. It can motivate students, correct mistakes, measure transfer of learning, evaluate instructional effects, and identify inappropriate student behaviors. It can be used to develop specific improvement plans.4 The purpose of this literature review is to define and describe student assessment methods and indicate how they are applied in physical therapy education. This information should assist novice and experienced teachers in both clinical and academic settings make informed choices about how student learning is assessed.

Student assessment methods will be discussed in terms of 2 different distinctions. The first distinction is between formative and summative assessments. The second distinction is between traditional and alternative forms of assessment. This second distinction will be further divided into 2 types of traditional assessments and 2 types of alternative assessments. The 2 traditional types of assessment are termed "selected response" and "supply response." The 2 alternative types of assessment are termed "restricted performance" and "extended performance." Definitions, examples, and supporting literature for each will be given. The Figure provides a schematic representation of these categories and distinctions.


This qualitative overview presents current literature on student assessment. Literature from higher education was used as a framework for defining and organizing student assessment methods. The literature in physical therapy education and other health care professions was reviewed for the uses and applications of student assessment methods in professional education. Online databases available through the university library were searched. …


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