Purpose: Educators should not assume that students will acquire the soft skills and professional behaviors that are valued without instruction and guided practice. Early establishment of a positive professional identity may empower and motivate students to work towards excellence. We sought to explore and describe student perceptions of online learning modules designed to promote soft skill development in professional level athletic training students early in their education program. Methods: A qualitative approach was used. We designed a course curriculum using a series of online learning modules to promote the development of soft skills and the appreciation of professional values. It was implemented at two universities with professional-level masters of athletic training programs. Students completed the curriculum in the first term in their respective programs. Participants included a convenience sample of 14 students enrolled in two masters-level professional athletic training programs. We invited students enrolled in two targeted programs to participate in the study by email and in person. We collected data in the form of survey and semi structured focus group interview responses as well as student artifacts from the courses. We analyzed the data in an ongoing, inductive, constant comparative manner, and the researchers used peer debriefing and member checking to enhance data trustworthiness. Results: Participants appreciated attention to professional behaviors in a modality that was time-efficient and through a scope relevant to their practice. Three main themes emerged from the data including the value of soft skills, interpersonal communication and collaboration, and personal growth. Conclusions: Athletic training educators should consider overt attention to teaching soft skills and professional behaviors. Educators should also consider doing so in a manner that is perceived as valuable to students.

Author Bio(s)

Christina Davlin-Pater, Ph.D., AT, ATC, EMT, is an Associate Professor of athletic training at Xavier University. She also serves as the Director of the Master of Science in Athletic Training Program at Xavier University.

Elisabeth C Rosencrum, PhD, NH-LAT, ATC, CSCS, is an Assistant Professor of athletic training and allied health sciences at Plymouth State University.





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