Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department or School

Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

Charles Achilles, EdD, Chair

Committee Member

Charles Achilles, EdD, Chair

Committee Member

Barbara Scheffer, EdD, RN


Background: Physical Therapy (PT) is a dynamic health profession. There is a compelling need to educate physical therapists to become self-directed, lifelong learners capable of thinking critically. Mixed-design curricula utilize various teaching methods to instruct students in a variety of knowledge areas, psychomotor skills, and cognitive constructs, such as problem-solving, reflection, and critical thinking (CT).

Purpose: To describe outcomes for PT students enrolled in the first year of the mixed design curriculum at Grand Valley State University (GVSU). Outcomes included the development of self-directed learning (SDL) and CT, as well as student-described satisfaction with and perceptions of the first year of the curriculum.

Intervention: The Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal (WGCTA) and The Self- Directed Learning Readiness Scale for adults (SDLRS-A) were used to assess students (n = 41) at the beginning of the GVSU PT curriculum. At the completion of their first year, the students retook the WGCTA and the SDLRS-A, completed questionnaires, and participated in structured focus groups. Differences between administrations of the WGCTA and SDLRS-A were statistically analyzed. Questionnaires and focus group data were used to assess students’ perceptions regarding their perceptions of the first year in the GVSU PT curriculum.

Research Design: Mixed-method, cross-sectional, explanatory field study.

Conclusions: WGCTA pre- and posttest means demonstrated a statistically significant difference (p = .05), and SDLRS-A pre- and posttest means approached a statistically significant difference (p = .06). The 1-point difference in CT scores represents little-to-no practical improvement in CT. The negative 4.63-point difference in SDL scores indicated poorer performance. End-of-course evaluation scores were most positive for a lecture and case-based course and least positive for a problem-based learning course. Students described lecture and hands-on laboratory as the most effective methods for their learning and PBL-based instruction as least effective. Students described lecture, memorization, and hands-on laboratories as experiences matching their learning styles. Students’ perceptions of the first-year GVSU PT curriculum were that is was high volume, which caused them anxiety and stress. They expressed preference for clear, organized content presented in traditional formats and discomfort with PBL and unstructured, self-directed learning experiences. Students valued guidance, feedback, and applied content from instructors.


Additional committee member: William Shelton, EdD

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