Building A Research-Based Learning Environment in PT Education
Given how rigorous the PT curriculum is, students must master an extensive list of advanced topics and complex concepts such as the Big 3 (Cardiovascular/Pulmonary, Musculoskeletal, and Neuromuscular/Nervous Systems). It doesn’t stop there: to be successful in their future practice, they must continuously build on that knowledge while developing critical thinking skills and lifelong learning habits.
One way PT educators can drive these outcomes is by incorporating research-based learning in the classroom. Start by identifying relevant research and discussing the findings with students within didactics or in a clinical setting.
Let’s take this research as an example:
Rotator cuff fatty infiltration (FI) and muscle atrophy (MA) are often thought to impact clinical outcomes.1 Researchers have been attempting to disprove this hypothesis, with little results—until recently. A 2021 study showed that rotator cuff muscle quality, as assessed by FI and MA, does not impact clinical outcomes following reverse total shoulder arthroplasty (RTSA) with a lateralized glenosphere in patients with glenohumeral osteoarthritis (GHOA) and an intact rotator cuff.
The study identified 108 patients who had undergone primary RTSA followed by a minimum of 2 years’ clinical follow-up and had preoperative MRI that showed an intact rotator cuff. The results indicated:
- No significant difference in the postoperative external rotation or clinical outcomes compared to patients who only had mild FI
- The cross-sectional area of each rotator cuff muscle did not significantly correlate with preoperative, postoperative, or change in any patient-reported outcome measure or ROM measurement
Now that you’ve discussed the research with students, how do you turn the findings into a teaching and learning tool?
TrueLearn’s NPTE® SmartBank: Bridging Theory to Practice
Leverage TrueLearn’s practice questions from our NPTE® SmartBank of 1,700+ board-style questions, including video and scenario-based items, written by board-certified physical therapists based on the FSBPT® NPTE® Content Outline.
Choose questions from the SmartBank that are relevant to the research topic and distribute the questions as student assignments or integrate them into lectures. This approach bridges theory to practice, allowing students to reinforce their mastery of key concepts (via studying the research) and assess their knowledge application (through answering TrueLearn’s practice question). Additionally, students gain valuable exposure to board-style questions, similar to what they will face on exam day.
Additionally, TrueLearn is integrated with leading audio-visual mnemonics platform Picmonic to form a powerful learning loop that lets students learn and self-assess across the curriculum. Picmonic is embedded into TrueLearn’s rich answer explanations so students can immediately click through to the relevant material if they miss the question.
Together, TrueLearn and Picmonic have helped more than 1 million students improve exam performance and outcomes, and empowered PT institutions to meet program objectives and key results. Find out how your program can benefit from our solution.
Want to see a question you could use in your classroom?
Download your free TrueLearn sample question now!
References & Footnotes
1 Kuzel BR, Grindel S, Papandrea R, Ziegler D. Fatty infiltration and rotator cuff atrophy. J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2013;21(10):613-623. doi:10.5435/jaaos-21-10-613
NPTE® is a trademark of the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT®). This content is not endorsed or approved by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT®).