Review (San Schmutz) – Project-based learning for physiotherapy clinical education quality and capacity

This article is most relevant in the current COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant effect of the pandemic on clinical placements for physiotherapy students globally. The approach of project-based learning to supplement clinical placements is based on sound pedagogy and is student-centred. The core idea of partnering with the host organisation in a flexible and responsive way to benefit both parties involved is a strength in the partnership that contributes to the host organisation’s capacity as well as learning for the student. However, it would add significance and value to the article if you could elaborate on a specific project or approach, applied during COVID-19, which you normally would not follow. Also, include what specific safety measures you need to follow for students and community members according to COVID-19 regulations.

Perhaps you can consider including a novel case study specifically during COVID-19 that is completely new for your context? It would further add value if you could elaborate on which student year group would participate, how many students per group, assessment and perhaps if the project is also community centred although student-driven?

The value of strengthening relationships in significant ways for mutual benefit when placing physiotherapy students is a matter of importance and should be mentioned. The project-based learning curricula model described, seems closely related to the service-learning model? How do these models relate and compare to each other? Do they complement each other so you could combine them to enhance effectiveness? Students are immersed in an environment where they have to think constructively toward learning and service and these projects lend themselves to the development of graduate attributes not necessarily only clinical competencies.

The consideration to the possible long-term effect of COVID-19 on clinical placement is important as we consider the preparation of physiotherapy students to prepare them for the future workforce and enable them to be responsive to health needs of the communities they will serve. How would you specifically evaluate your project for effectiveness and sustainability?

In both of these learning strategies, the mutual benefit for the health service as well as students’ learning is key and therefore worthwhile in exploring as a supplement to clinical exposure and practice. For relevance, during this COVID-19 time, I would suggest you include more recent references as well.

One thought on “Review (San Schmutz) – Project-based learning for physiotherapy clinical education quality and capacity

  1. Thank you for your thorough, kind and thoughtful review of our manuscript.
    We really appreciate the depth of the review and subsequent comments and we trust that the changes to the manuscript as a result of this review have led to a much clearer and insightful read.

    We really like your idea of providing more tangible and local examples of how we have utilised PjBL specific to our setting. To maintain the structure, layout and of course the ‘generalisability’ that we have aimed for with the manuscript, we have made modifications to provide more detail on examples within the existing table. To do this, we have particularly expanded table 1 to present this more as a ‘case study’ with particular reference to a single student activity (outlining who the student is) and their host organisation. We have kept the term ‘example’ but expanded this to ‘case study example’ to be explicit, however we feel that these changes are helpful for the reader to see more explicitly how these are being used. We trust that this gives the reader something slightly more ‘tangible’ and practical to consider how PjBL is applied.

    We reflect on the suggestion regarding more tangible applications of PjBL during COVID-19. We do feel that PjBL has not been specific to COVID-19 (certainly for us in Australia where physiotherapy has remained open as an essential service), rather it has brought opportunities such as PjBL to light where we can look to supplement existing placements in an ongoing way during, and following, the implications of COVID-19. For these reasons we are hesitant to ‘timestamp’ our manuscript in a way that is COVID-19 specific, given the different ways the pandemic has affected different counties, and that we wanted to strongly steer clear of any impression of COVID-19 being the sole impetus for PjBL initiatives where, given workforce demands and the lack of placements, can offer an ongoing and pragmatic approach to sustaining placements and supporting part-time placements. This was also why we tried to ‘steer clear’ of COVID-19 in the title as we really want to advertise and advocate for PjBL on a larger and ongoing scale. We hope that this provides clarity on our approach.

    Thank you for raising the concept of service learning. As consistent with current higher education literature, service based learning can be used synonymously with PjBL, especially where PjBL has a real-world, or community focus to it. The use of terminology was a key consideration of the authors, and we selected the term PjBL as this tends to be a broader term that service learning often falls into. On reflection however of the comments, and reviewing the manuscript ourselves in light of these comments, we do agree that it will be helpful to provide this perspective within the manuscript by recognising the role of service learning, and that the examples that we provide, encompass both PjBL and service learning or a combination of the two. For this reason, we have provided in the introduction an explanation of service learning being encompassed within PjBL especially where there is a community service focus.

    Evaluation of any introduced model is critical to understanding its effects and when considering sustainability. Evaluation of approaches are currently being rolled out at our site, and thus we have provided more insight into what effective evaluation entails within the discussion. We trust that this provides a more thorough view on the topic for the reader.

    Lastly, we have reviewed references and updated the reference list. We feel that this now supports the contemporary nature of our publication.

    We would like to thank the reviewer again for the generous time and insight given within this review, and we hope to have produced a much clearer read in the process.
    Thanks again,
    Roma and Romany
    The University of Queensland

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