Learning styles of physiotherapists : a systematic scoping review
CITATION: Stander, J., Grimmer, K. & Brink, Y. 2019. Learning styles of physiotherapists : a systematic scoping review. BMC Medical Education, 19:2, doi:10.1186/s12909-018-1434-5.
The original publication is available at https://bmcmededuc.biomedcentral.com
Background: Understanding students’ learning styles, and modifying teaching styles and material accordingly, is an essential to delivering quality education. Knowing more about the learning styles of physiotherapy learners will assist educators’ planning and delivering of learning activities. The purpose of this scoping review was to explore what is published about physiotherapy learning styles. Methods: An adapted Arksey and O’Malley framework was applied to undertake this systematic scoping review. Nine electronic databases (CINAHL, BIOMED CENTRAL, Cochrane, Web of Science, PROQUEST, PubMed, OTseeker, Scopus, ERIC) were searched using the keywords: ‘learning styles’ and ‘physiotherapy’. English-language, primary research articles that investigated physiotherapy learners’ learning styles were sought. Results: Of 396 potentially-relevant articles, 15 were included in this review. The studies mostly reflected undergraduate students (910 undergraduates, 361 postgraduates, 23 professionals), in developed countries. Nine articles used the Kolb’s experiential learning theory (ELT); one study applied Honey and Mumford’s approach; two studies used the Gregorc model of cognition and three studies did not specify an underlying theory. Outcome measures included different versions of Kolb’s Learning Style Inventory, the visual-aural-read/write-kinesthetic questionnaire, Gregorc style delineator, Felder Silverman’s Index of Learning Survey, and Honey and Mumford’s Learning Style Questionnaire. The preferred physiotherapy learning styles, according to the ELT, seem to be Converger (learns “hands-on” and applying previously attained knowledge) and Assimilator (gathers and organises information to make the most sense). Conclusions: Both physiotherapy learners and physiotherapists have specific learning styles of active participation, underpinned with practical examples of theoretical concepts. More research is needed in developing countries, and on postgraduate and professional physiotherapy learners’ learning styles. Also, further research should focus on defining and describing physiotherapy learning styles in a way to be used as an industry standard; and developing valid and reliable learning style outcome measures applicable across physiotherapy learners and settings.