Purpose: In Australia, the ability to interpret orthopaedic x-rays is an entry-level skill for physiotherapists. Yet there is a paucity of evidence in the literature which details effective learning and teaching methods to optimise confidence and competence in x-ray interpretation. The aims of this study were to describe the content contained in an orthopaedic radiology module within an Australian 2-year graduate entry Master of Physiotherapy degree; approaches to learning and teaching used in this module; student satisfaction associated with this module over a 2-year period. Method: The University’s framework for quality assurance, which is based on the Plan-Implement-Review-Improve underpinned this action research project. The content of the radiology module was reviewed and feedback was gained from a student focus group and standard university course data. Data were analysed using descriptive content analysis and descriptive statistics to identify areas for improvement. Changes to the module were then developed and implemented, and the effect of these changes were evaluated using a custom-designed survey. Results: It was found that didactic methods of teaching were used in this module that encouraged surface level learning. Students reported feeling stressed during the radiology examination due to the learning tasks and assessment being disconnected, and often reported difficulty transferring knowledge into the clinical placement setting. Constructive alignment was undertaken of learning activities and assessment tasks. An additional non-compulsory tutorial was added to the radiology module, where scaffolding and cooperative learning techniques were used to teach students x-ray interpretation. Students reported that the revised curriculum increased their confidence in interpreting x-rays. Students’ competence in x-ray interpretation also increased based on a significant increase in score on their radiology examination. Conclusion: Based on the findings of this study the addition of a tutorial that focused on interpretation of x-ray films to supplement radiology teaching improved entry-level physiotherapy students’ confidence and competence in interpreting x-rays and their perceived preparedness for clinical placement in a small entry-level physiotherapy cohort at a single Australian University.

Author Bio(s)

Courtney Clark, MHSc, BPhty, is Lecturer in the School of Allied Health Science at Griffith University on the Gold Coast, Australia, in Orthopaedics and cardiorespiratory, and an Australian Physiotherapy Association Cardiorespiratory Titled Member.

Andrea Bialocerkowski PhD, BAppSc(Physio), MAppSc(Physio), GradDipPubHlth, is Professor and Head of School of the School of Allied Health Science at Griffith University on the Gold Coast, Australia.


Thank you to the students who took part in the project and who made the project so worthwhile.



Figure 1 Components of physiotherapy curricula (Adapted from World Confederation of Physical Therapy 2011).png (71 kB)
Figure 1 Components of physiotherapy curricula (Adapted from World Confederation of Physical Therapy (2011)

Figure 2 The Plan Implement Review Improve (PIRI) Model.png (33 kB)
Figure 2 The Plan Implement Review Improve (PIRI) Model



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.