Reflective journal writing to obtain student feedback about their learning during the study of chronic musculoskeletal conditions

Renee M Williams, Jean Wessel
Journal of Allied Health 2004, 33 (1): 17-23
The purpose of this qualitative study was to obtain feedback from physical therapy students about their learning while studying chronic musculoskeletal conditions. All 48 students wrote weekly entries in reflective journals to document what and how they learned during an 8-week academic unit in a 24-month, postbaccalaureate, problem-based program. Students identified significant learning events and described their observations, impressions, and reactions to what and how they learned and how they would respond to the same or similar events in the future. The journals were read independently by two physical therapy instructors who used a qualitative method to code the content of the weekly entries. They worked together to categorize the codes and develop themes. Five themes were identified: (1) realization that a different approach is needed to treat patients with chronic versus acute musculoskeletal conditions, (2) adjustment to group learning, (3) adoption of new coping strategies, (4) appreciation of the influence of students' values and beliefs on patient care, and (5) awareness of the various roles within physical therapy practice. The results indicated that the students had positive shifts in attitude about elderly clients and clients with chronic conditions, that they continued to adjust their learning and coping skills, and that they better understood the scope of practice of physical therapists. Journal writing can be used to obtain important feedback on how students learn and to promote their reflective thinking.

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