Service-Learning Enhances Physical Therapy Students' Ability to Examine Fall Risk in Older Adults


Service-learning (SL) is one educational methodology that provides students opportunities to practice and refine affective, cognitive and psychomotor skills in a community-based setting. PURPOSE: The aims of this study were: 1) to investigate the impact of SL on physical therapy (PT) students' attitudes and perceived clinical competence when working with older adults, and 2) to evaluate the difference between perceptions of students who developed and implemented the SL activity vs those who implemented only. METHODS: Eighty PT students, (from two consecutive cohorts) enrolled in a first-year geriatrics course, participated in this study. The first cohort designed and implemented the SL activities, while the second cohort only implemented these activities. Student self-perceived anxiety, confidence, knowledge and skills were assessed by pre-And post-SL surveys using a 5- point Likert-like scale. RESULTS: Both cohorts reported similar anxiety and confidence levels pre-SL. For both cohorts, with the exception of one item, all responses to anxiety items significantly decreased from pre-To post-SL. All students' confidence levels for assessing and mitigating fall risk in older adults increased post-SL (p ‹ 0.01). Moreover, students in cohort 1, who designed and delivered SL activities, expressed self-perceived improvement in their ability to interpret results of evaluations, to determine type and severity of balance impairments, and to serve a geriatric population (p ‹ 0.05) compared to students in cohort 2 who only implemented the activities. CONCLUSION: Embedding SL into a geriatrics course decreased self-perceived anxiety and improved student confidence regarding working with older adults. Also, empowering students to be actively involved in the design and implementation of SL increased self-perceived ability in interpreting results from assessments. J Allied Health 2017; 46(3):e51-e58.

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Journal of Allied Health







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