Essential Considerations for Planning the Clinical Education Curricular Component of the Entry-Level Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Studies and Research

First Advisor

W. Lee Pierce

Advisor Department

Educational Studies and Research


The purpose of this study was to determine the essential considerations to guide the development of the clinical education curricular component of the entry-level Doctor of Physical Therapy degree that would produce an autonomous, evidence-based practitioner. The population for the study was comprised of the Academic Coordinators of Clinical Education (ACCE) at all education programs in the United States accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) that offer the Doctor of Physical Therapy as an entry-level degree for practice. In addition, the ACCE from accredited programs identified in some way by CAPTE, as in transition to offer the entry-level DPT, were included. Forty-seven Academic Coordinators of Clinical Education participated in the study. A three-round Delphi method was used to seek consensus among the participants. The initial round of the study gathered demographic data and provided participants with the opportunity to suggest modification, deletion or addition to the initial list of 17 possible essential considerations. The second round allowed participants to rate the 18 revised considerations using an ordinal scale. In the third and final round, participants had the opportunity to reconsider their rating in comparison to the group consensus. Consensus was achieved for 17 of the 18 essential considerations. The considerations that were basic to curricular planning and development rated the highest level of agreement. Some of the other considerations in the study deemed essential by a majority of the respondents were an opportunity for a wide range of client experience across the lifespan, the opportunity for collaboration with multiple healthcare providers, clinical instructors that had adequate clinical experience and teaching skills, and planning the total clinical education component as more then 27 weeks in length. The results of this study indicated that the majority of respondents somewhat agreed that change in the traditional model for clinical education was essential to consider. However, the respondents somewhat disagreed that both alternative models, the internship model and a core element of the self-contained model, were essential considerations. With the exception of the length of the total experience, there was no indication by the responses or comments offered by the respondents in this study, that a significant change in the model of clinical education for the entry-level DPT was an essential consideration. Study results indicated some change is possible in the breadth of experience encompassing primary care and non-traditional populations.