“Being absorbed in that environment… it’s just so beneficial” – the experiences of physiotherapy students in a situated learning pilot study

Ms Sarah Barradell1, Dr Felicity  Blackstock1,2, Dr Clarice Tang1, Ms  Joan Leo1,3

1La Trobe University, Bundoora, Australia,

2Western Sydney University, Penrith, Australia

3Mercy Public Hospital Inc, Heidelberg, Australia


Aim: Explore the experiences of students who have completed non-clinical subjects that were facilitated by a health-care based professional within the clinical environment.


Method: This qualitative study used a phenomenologically-oriented approach to explore the experiences of participants who were physiotherapy students enrolled in two non-clinical practicum-based subjects. Subjects were facilitated by health-care based professionals in classroom settings co-located on a clinical site.  Participants completed a total of 150 hours of either face-to-face or online learning activities across a 5-week time period. Two semi-structured interviews were conducted with each participant, one mid-way through, and the second at the end of the learning period. Data was thematically analysed by two investigators using an inductive approach.


Results: Three inter-related themes emerged. Firstly, meaning making is enhanced by the relevance and authenticity afforded by immersion in a practice-oriented classroom environment where health-care based professionals facilitate learning.  Secondly, learning from those ‘in practice’ challenges participants’ professional and academic accountability.  Finally, new educational processes infrastructures influences students’ agency to adopt a more independent and proactive learning approach.


Significance of the findings to allied health: Being taught by future potential supervisors/employers, plus learning within an environment that was different to the traditional university, unexpectedly created opportunities for students to adopt a more independent and proactive learning approach, albeit somewhat transiently.