Purpose: In professional allied health education, textbooks are central to developing course content, student learning and certification exams, but little is known about the graduate student’s perspective. This study was intended to describe current trends in graduate students’ point of view, habits and opinions related to buying and using textbooks and other resources in allied health education. Methods: This was a multi-site collaborative research project. An electronic survey was developed to gather data on student habits and perspectives regarding textbook preferences including digital texts, academic reading, exam preparation, and obtaining course materials. The survey was distributed across four academic institutions. Of the 247 total surveys distributed, 222 participants completed the survey resulting in a 90% usable response rate. Students were in occupational therapy (n=186), physical therapy (n=24), and speech-language pathology (n=12) programs. The investigators used descriptive statistics to analyze quantitative items and concept coding for three open-ended items. Results: The majority of students (74.2%) reported that they purchased required textbooks and a similar 73.9% reported owning their text books; most of these students also kept the textbooks after the class completed. Funding for textbooks came from personal or family funds 88.4% of the time with few students having scholarship or other funds to pay for books. However, students were inconsistent in using textbooks to complete required reading with only 13.6% consistently completing readings before class and only 33.3% completed readings before an exam; 14.9% rarely completed the readings before an exam. Financial concerns, time constraints, and faculty support of textbook use were cited by students as influencing their buying and using textbook decisions. Despite evidence that digital textbooks may be less expensive, the majority of the students (76.0%) reported they would prefer to permanently own required textbooks and 86.9% preferred printed over digital textbooks. Conclusions: Allied health educators are encouraged to consider evidence-based pedagogical practices to reinforce textbook use and the use of technology to foster successful engagement in the classroom and in preparation for professional certification examinations.

Author Bio(s)

Laura Stimler, EdD, OTD, OTR/L, BCP, C/NDT is an Associate Professor in the Auerbach School of Occupational Therapy at Spalding University. Dr. Stimler teaches, researches, publishes and presents on topics including rehabilitation oncology, pediatric practice, acute care, and the scholarship of teaching and learning.

Camille Skubik-Peplaski PhD, OTR/L FAOTA is a Professor in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at Eastern Kentucky University. Dr. Skubik-Peplaski is recognized for her leadership roles at state and national levels and has research interests in occupation-based interventions, client-centered care and motor recovery.

Melba Custer, PhD, OT/L is a Professor and Capstone Coordinator in the Auerbach School of Occupational Therapy at Spalding University. Dr. Custer is an experienced educator who with a background in research and upper extremity rehabilitation. Her research interests are survey development, program evaluation, and outcomes research.

Shirley Peganoff O'Brien, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA is a University Foundation Professor at Eastern Kentucky University, a Fellow of the American Occupational Therapy Association and serves as the EKU Post Professional OTD Coordinator. Dr. O’Brien publishes and presents on various topics in the scholarship of teaching and learning and policy analysis.


The authors would like to thank Dr. Ruth Huebner, PhD FAOTA, retired professor from Eastern Kentucky University. We appreciate the suggestions she made to earlier versions of this paper. The authors would also like to thank Dr. Robert McAlister for his early contributions to the development of the survey.

Figure 1_Contrasting Habits (final).docx (27 kB)
Figure 1: Contrasting Habits

REC Final Approval letter.pdf (125 kB)
REC/IRB approval


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