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Abstract

An ongoing challenge for faculty is to determine effective and efficient mechanisms for assisting students to achieve academic success. Supplemental Instruction (SI), a form of peer tutoring, has been defined as a peer-led academic assistance program that targets difficult courses and is offered to students enrolled in those courses. Based on student feedback that exercise physiology is difficult, the authors chose this course in the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) curriculum for this post-only pilot study. SI was offered over a three-year period to physical therapist students enrolled in an exercise physiology course. The purposes of this study were to 1) determine the perceived benefits of SI by students who attended at least one session, 2) identify reasons students never attended SI or started attending SI and then stopped, 3) identify the degree of student satisfaction with SI, and 4) identify students’ willingness to recommend SI for exercise physiology or other DPT courses. An 18-item written questionnaire was the assessment method. A total of 203 students participated over the three-year period. Frequency distributions and percentages were calculated for each of the multiple choice questionnaire items to determine results of students’ perceptions of SI. Students’ perceived benefits included 1) improved academic performance, 2) improved confidence, 3) increased contact with other students, 4) improved understanding of the material, 5) improved motivation to learn, and 6) improved understanding of instructor expectations. Frequently cited reasons for never attending were conflicts with other courses and/or work schedule, and not perceiving the service as needed. Students cited lack of time to attend sessions and alternative study methods as frequent reasons for attending SI and then stopping. In each of the three years, at least 85% of the students who attended at least one SI session were satisfied. The percentage of students who would recommend SI for exercise physiology or other DPT courses was consistently ≥ 70%. Given the positive outcomes of this three-year implementation of SI in an entry-level physical therapy curriculum, other colleges and universities may wish to consider implementation of an SI program for health professions’ courses.

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