Malawi's Physiotherapists: Implications for Clinical Faculty Development in Resource-Limited Regions of the World

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Publication Title

Journal of Physical Therapy Education







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Publication Date

Spring 1-1-2013


Background and Purpose. Challenged health systems are an impetus for health education reform; however, when manpower resources are in short supply, trained educators are often also in short supply. Viewing practicing clinicians not only as educators but also as students for the purpose of professional development leads to the importance of examining their preferred teaching methods. Many studies have demonstrated that student learning preferences, personality types, and teaching methods have an impact on performance; however, studies describing the faculty preferences for teaching methods, familiarity with those methods, and characteristics related to preferences for teaching methods are scarce. The purpose of this case report is to describe Malawian physical therapists' familiarities with and preferences for various pedagogies and the implications for educating clinical education faculty in resource-limited regions of the world.

Case Description. Malawi is a small country in southeast Africa with a population of 15.2 million and a critical shortage of rehabilitation workers. The 25 physiotherapists (the term for "physical therapist" abroad) currently practicing in the country will comprise the entire clinical education faculty for the physiotherapy program at the University of Malawi College of Medicine. These future clinical educators were asked to complete a Likert-like survey about their familiarity and preference for 8 approaches to teaching. Descriptive and correlational analyses were used.

Outcomes. The 96% response rate (N = 24) yielded significant information about an entire country's physical therapists. The majority of the physiotherapists were African, African-educated, and born between 1965 and 1979. They were split nearly evenly in sex, and all but 2 were employed as clinical physical therapists. They were more familiar with instructor-centered teaching approaches than student-centered approaches. Preferences, however, indicated favorable views of student-centered teaching approaches, such as collaborate teaching, case-based teaching, and problem-based learning.

Discussion and Conclusions. Given the importance of understanding the learner for effective teaching, this report on the teaching beliefs of physical therapists is essential background for those who provide clinical faculty development.

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