What does an enquiry-based approach offer undergraduate physiotherapy students in their final year of study?
Background. Physiotherapy students in their final year at Stellenbosch University (SU) complete a module that follows an enquiry-based learning (EBL) approach. This module exposes them to higher-order problem solving and was developed to facilitate independent self-directed learning and improved higher-order thinking skills.
Objective. To describe the perceptions of undergraduate physiotherapy students on the impact of this EBL approach on their learning.
Methods. A cross-sectional descriptive study was conducted with three consecutive cohorts of final-year undergraduate physiotherapy students. A questionnaire was used to obtain information related to the students’ perception of this module. Coding and identification of themes were done independently using an inductive approach. Initial themes were compared and discussed to achieve consensus regarding the final themes reported.
Results. Students reported the development of skills such as the ability to source relevant information and problem-solving abilities. Students attributed improvements in their clinical reasoning and performance during clinical work to the skills they developed during this module. The main themes identified as barriers to learning during this module were availability of learning materials, quality assurance and time constraints. Group work was identified as both a facilitator and a barrier to their learning.
Conclusion. Physiotherapy students at SU perceived the introduction of a module following an EBL approach positively. They developed skills such as sourcing information and problem-solving, which they perceived improved their clinical work. The main barriers to learning were time constraints and concerns regarding quality assurance of learning material. Group work was regarded as both facilitatory and a barrier to learning. Programmes considering the implementation of EBL should ensure sufficient resource material and that quality assurance mechanisms are in place to address students’ anxiety regarding learning material. Guidance and support to students during the initial implementation phase of an EBL approach are necessary to allay fears and frustrations.
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