Supporting transition to masters level study: what do physiotherapy students find helpful? - Abstract

Jacqueline Shanley, Nicky Lambon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Relevance: Many physiotherapists enrol on a master's degree programme in order to enhance their practice and it is well documented that students find the transition from undergraduate to postgraduate study challenging (Tobbell et al., 2010; West, 2012). This study explores postgraduate physiotherapy students’ perspectives on the most effective strategies for supporting their transition Purpose: During induction and the early part of a postgraduate programme, students are supported in developing ‘master's level’ skills through various formal and informal sessions. However, it is not clear which methods are most effective in enhancing this transition to master's level. Spearing (2014) attempted to address this by exploring the effect of specific teaching sessions aimed at enhancing student understanding of the expectations of master's level study. She found that for most students this strategy proved helpful but for the weaker students it was not effective; suggesting that formal teaching sessions are not the full answer to supporting student transition. At Coventry University, a number of strategies are in place, which aim to support postgraduate physiotherapy students, including an extended induction programme with formal teaching sessions relating to academic writing, critical thinking, in addition to more informal support sessions. The aim of this study was to ascertain which support strategies were most effective in enhancing transition to master's level study. Methods/analysis: The views of postgraduate physiotherapy students who had completed their programme of study were explored in a qualitative study, using focus group methodology (Barbour and Kitzinger, 2001). A focus group was carried out with 7 students (2 home and 5 international students), which involved discussions relating to the support they felt they needed and had received throughout the whole student experience. Results: Three key themes emerged from the data, relating to the timing of the support strategies: 1. The value of pre-course support, including reading material and contact with peers. 2. The value of early support, including pastoral support from staff, peer support and facilitation of time management skills. 3. The value of ongoing support, including academic writing, support with assessment and feedback on coursework. Discussion and conclusions: Students seemed to place great value on support from their peers and flexible support from tutors throughout their programme. They valued support with academic writing and assessment but emphasised that feedback from assessment was crucial in developing their master's level writing skills. Interestingly, they felt that information about assessment and critical thinking should be introduced slowly, as they found this to be rather overwhelming early on in their studies. This study highlighted the need for support throughout a programme of study to enhance the overall positive experience and indeed perceived personal success by participants. In particular the extended induction process was welcomed by international students who were studying in the UK for the first time. Impact and implications: This study has implications for postgraduate physiotherapy education, suggesting that a structured programme of support enhances student transition to master's level.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberPOS061
Issue numberSupplement 1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016

Bibliographical note

This is a published abstract only. This is an abstract of a paper given at The 4th European Congress of the European Region of the World Confederation of Physical Therapy (ER-WCPT) Abstracts, Liverpool, UK, 11-12 November 2016


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