Purpose: To describe the perceptions of peer evaluation as an instructional method when used by entry-level doctor of physical therapy (DPT) students as preparation for practical examinations within a clinically oriented course.

Methods/Description: Forty first year, entry-level doctor of physical therapy students participated in structured peer-skills checks prior to practical exams as part a clinically based course. Each student was required to observe and provide critical feedback for at least four other students as they performed simulated patient care activities. Peer-evaluators rated the students on their level of competency with the skills using a Visual Analog Scale and provided written feedback specifying areas of strength and areas needing improvement. Following the conclusion of the course, students completed a questionnaire using online survey software. The questionnaire was designed to investigate student perceptions related to skill acquisition, giving and accepting feedback, and the overall value of peer-feedback.

Results: Themes emerged regarding the value of practice and repetition, emerging reflective practice skills, emerging critical thinking and problem solving skills, and the use of peer feedback for improved performance. The value of practice and repetition was reflected in statements such as the skills checks “helped me organize my interviews…and get over my fear of the unknown.” Emerging reflective practice was demonstrated by comments such as "made me self-reflect on my abilities to perform skills.” The development of clinical reasoning and problem solving skills were evidenced by comments of “the skills check helped me think through what to do when things did not go as planned...” The value of feedback was reflected in comments such as “It helped me refine my skills and develop the areas that aren't as strong,” “I embraced the feedback...I could work on my weaknesses.”

Conclusions: Literature supports peer evaluation as an instructional tool within allied health education; however, minimal research has been completed within the profession of physical therapy education. Based on the results of this study, entry-level doctor of physical therapy students perceive peer-evaluation as an effective instructional method to assist in developing psychomotor skills necessary for patient care, as well as, affective skills necessary for reflective practice and cognitive skills related to clinical reasoning.

Author Bio(s)

Dawn James, PT, DPT is an Assistant Professor in the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at West Coast University's Center for Graduate Studies in Los Angeles, CA. She is a Board-Certified Clinical Specialist in Pediatric Physical Therapy and maintains a pediatric clinical practice in the Los Angeles area.

Natalie Weeks-O'Neal, PT, DPT is an Assistant Professor in the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at West Coast University in Los Angeles, CA. She is also an acute care physical therapist at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center in Long Beach, CA.

Jennyfer Oh, PT, DPT is a Teaching Assistant in the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at West Coast University in Los Angeles, CA. She is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach and full-time clinician practicing vestibular out-patient physical therapy.

Teressa Brown, PT, DPT, PhD is the Dean and Program Director of the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at West Coast University in Los Angeles California. Her PhD is in Health Professions Education. She is also a Board Certified Clinical Specialist in Orthopedic Physical Therapy currently licensed in California.


The authors wish to thank Dr. Kathleen Dwyer for her advice and guidance during the initial planning and development of this research work. Her encouragement and early critiques were very much appreciated.





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