Benefits of curriculum renewal : the Stellenbosch University physiotherapy experience

Unger, Marianne ; Hanekom, Susan D. (2014-10)

CITATION: Unger, M. & Hanekom, S.D. 2014. Benefits of curriculum renewal: the Stellenbosch University physiotherapy experience. African Journal of Health Professions Education, 6(2):222, doi:10.7196/ajhpe.519.

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Publication of this article was funded by the Stellenbosch University Open Access Fund.


Background. Driven by a changing healthcare environment, the Division of Physiotherapy (Stellenbosch University) reduced core content and adopted a multimodal approach to teaching and learning. The benefits of curriculum renewal, however, are seldom investigated despite ongoing internal appraisal. Evaluation of the BSc Physiotherapy programme was considered incomplete without determining the worth of the programme. Objectives. To determine whether there was a change in students’ perception of the impact of the programme on personal development; and whether the programme prepared them for community service. Methods. A descriptive comparative desktop analysis was conducted in which the data from the Faculty’s Programme Evaluation process were compared between students enrolled in the old curriculum (2006) and students enrolled in the new curriculum (2011) using pooled data and t-tests to compare responses between the two groups. A level of significance was set at p<0.05. Results. A significant increase in scores was noted for various graduate attributes developed as a result of the programme, such as critical thinking, clinical reasoning, communication and sourcing information (p<0.01). Similarly, students scored their perceptions related to programme structure significantly higher (p<0.01). No change was reported regarding students’ ability to maintain a balance between studies and other activities. Scores pertaining to their perception of readiness for community service or professional practice remained the same with both cohorts believing they were well prepared. Conclusion. The renewed format seemed to benefit students greatly in assisting the development of graduate attributes. Students were significantly more satisfied with the structure of the renewed curriculum and – despite extensive changes – the principles-based multimodal approach to teaching and learning was perceived as effective for preparing students for community service. Programmes undertaking curriculum renewal should not only focus on the curriculum content but also develop a variety of learning opportunities to facilitate the development of graduate attributes. The next cycle of evaluation should however reflect on clinical practice.

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