Physiotherapy students’ perceptions about the learning opportunities included in an introductory clinical module

  • DV Ernstzen
  • SB Statham
  • SD Hanekom


Background. Clinical education forms a core component of physiotherapy training. However, the transition from the classroom to clinical learning environments can be challenging. An introductory clinical placement with appropriate learning opportunities is therefore important to ensure that learning outcomes are reached.
Objectives. To determine second-year physiotherapy students’ perceptions about the learning opportunities provided in an introductory clinical module and to determine their perception about the attainment of the learning outcomes.
Methods. A descriptive case study was undertaken, using mixed methodology. All 39 second-year physiotherapy students were invited to participate. Data were collected using a self-developed questionnaire which focused on the outcomes of the module and the perceived value of the learning opportunities. A focus group discussion was conducted with a random subset (n=15) of the population.
Results. The response rate to the questionnaire was 79% (n=31). Peer learning by observing senior students, demonstrations by clinical lecturers and the assessment of specific skills were perceived by students to be particularly useful. However, several learning opportunities did not contribute effectively to learning. Participants highlighted a transitional process between classroom and clinical environments during which they became aware and could respond mentally to the demands of a clinical placement.
Conclusions. The clinical education introductory module provided valuable opportunities, where students learnt productively in a non-threatening learning environment. Junior students linked theoretical and practical concepts to clinical implementation. Peer mentoring and progressive mastering were valuable learning strategies. Reflection and students’ emotional adjustment to clinical practice are topics for further investigation.


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