Physical therapy on trial: the rationale, organization, and impact of a mock trial on physical therapy students' attitudes toward and confidence in research

Deborah Givens Heiss, Michele Basso
Journal of Allied Health 2003, 32 (3): 202-10
A learning activity, debate with a mock trial format, provides opportunities for physical therapy students to develop skill and confidence in learning to evaluate research critically, to formulate opinions regarding the credibility of the available evidence for a therapeutic approach to patient care, and to substantiate their choice of treatments with persuasive arguments and analytic rebuttals. The purposes of this study were to (1) describe the mock trial learning activity within a professional physical therapy curriculum and (2) determine whether the mock trial positively influenced students' attitudes toward research and confidence in their ability to interpret and apply research findings to clinical practice. A structured questionnaire was distributed to the 48 students at key points during the academic program to measure the overall effects of the physical therapy curriculum and the specific effects of the mock trial learning activity. There was an increase (p < 0.05) in the students' confidence in their ability to interpret and apply research after participating in the mock trial. The overall responses to the modified Attitudes-to-Research scale indicated that the physical therapy students generally held positive and optimistic attitudes toward research. These attitudes were maintained over the entire experience within the curriculum. If attitudes predict behavior, these future practitioners are more likely to be physical therapists who critically appraise and use evidence to determine practice.

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