How well are allied health students prepared for client interaction? A constructive alignment case study of student-client communication competencies

Dr Renee Mackenzie1

1La Trobe University , Bundoora, Australia

 

Aim: To develop a method for reviewing the constructive alignment of student-client communication competencies in an allied health tertiary context. Method: Educational documentation was reviewed, using the Master of Clinical Prosthetics and Orthotics as a contextual case study. Criterion by which the constructive alignment of the competency was established at three levels; learning outcomes (LOs), assessment tasks and student feedback. Results: Six subjects containing student-client interaction were identified, two of which were classified as off-site clinical education. Ten notable LOs were identified and all were mapped to assessment tasks. Learning activities showed limited description of the communication competency. Assessment matrices indicated students received minimal written feedback concerning their interaction with clients, until final assessments in final year. The review identified a much greater emphasis on students’ ability to communicate with an assessor and limited feedback on the interaction between student and client. Significance of the findings to allied health: Allied health professionals are united by their regular interaction with clients. Communication is widely cited as a core competency in allied health educational documentation, yet concerns arising from poor communication continue to be reported in a range of health contexts. This case study identified a lack of clarity in the translation of LOs to assessment tasks. Limited feedback may impact students’ perception of the importance of communication skills with potential to shape their behaviour in clinical practice. This type of review is easily replicated and may have broader application in allied health tertiary contexts.