Call for papers | Towards a new normal in physiotherapy education

The current global health emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic has led to significant social, economic and political upheaval all around the world, affecting higher and professional education at a global level. While there have been other examples of physiotherapy programmes being disrupted (I’m reminded of the 2015-2017 #FeesMustFall student action across the South African higher education sector), there is no precedent for the speed, breadth, depth and scale of the changes we are currently experiencing. Some of the impacts on professional education and training include:

  • The complete removal of all physiotherapy students from the clinical platform, effectively removing a non-trivial contribution to patient care and leaving a significant additional and unplanned burden on remaining clinical staff;
  • An overnight shift towards emergency remote teaching and learning that has taken many educators by surprise, especially those who did not plan for it, were unprepared to provide it, and who may have low affinity for it;
  • This shift is likely to have diverted attention away from both short- and long-term departmental planning, towards an inwardly focused survival mode that may slow down or bring to a halt other professional education activities.
  • The massive integration of technology as a way to support remote student learning, across many platforms, in many contexts, with many students at different levels of access and confidence in using that technology;
  • The almost certain psychological impact of having many thousands of students subjected to physical isolation and social distancing for extended periods of time, with the associated mental health issues that may result due to the current lockdown restrictions;
  • Concerns among students and their families about their future studies, as well as their personal safety when they eventually do return to the clinical platform.
  • High levels of anxiety among teachers and faculty members, given the debt incurred by universities.

In addition to the changes that have already been wrought on physiotherapy education, there are undoubtedly more that are still to come, including the unintended consequences of the decisions we are currently making. Many colleagues are legitimately concerned about the immediate effect of these changes on our students and our programmes. However, we might also suggest that the pandemic is acting as an accelerator for change with potential longer-term benefits for our profession.

By responding to this global disruption, we are placed in a situation where we are having to rethink our approaches to physiotherapy education. All over the world physiotherapy educators are engaged in what is possibly the most extensive programme of pedagogical change in our professional history. We see colleagues responding with creativity, empathy and flexibility, creating a unique opportunity for us to capture and share what may be a series of transformative changes in physiotherapy education at a global scale.

In this call for papers we’re looking for examples of those changes that physiotherapy educators are implementing now but which have the potential to be maintained post-pandemic. We’d like to learn, not only what made emergency remote teaching and learning possible in the coming weeks and months, but whether these changes have the potential to transform physiotherapy education in the future.

We would therefore like to invite colleagues from around the world to submit short reports on the changes that are being implemented in your programmes, that authors believe have the potential to be valuable in the longer term. These submissions should ideally be in the form of Research reports or Notes (see the OpenPhysio author guidelines for more detailed information on these formats). Submissions should clearly identify the problem that the educator or programme aimed to address, should include a maximum of 3-5 citations that form the basis for decision-making with respect to the curriculum change, early findings (even if only in the form of observations), and a single focused recommendation.

The closing deadline for submissions is the 31st of July.


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