UBC Physical Therapy News

“Thank you for taking one student. Won’t you consider taking two?” the UBC Clinical Education Team asks. Your first thought might be: “You’ve got to be kidding! One is enough work!” Well, the literature suggests that one student is more work than two and the student’s learning experience is enhanced when placed with another student. Perhaps you can be convinced with the fact that it is less work overall, with the exception of completing the evaluation for two students rather than one. It comes down to collaborative peer learning.

In this model, two students are placed together with either one supervising clinical educator (2:1) or two part-time supervising clinical educators (2:2). Students work together throughout the placement, sharing their knowledge with each other, each bringing different strengths and experiences to collaborate in the planning, problem solving and conduct of assessment and treatment. Students are expected to be self- directed and consult with one another prior to approaching the clinical educator.

The clinical educator is the expert who provides overall direction and supervision, ensuring quality of care and safety, however the students can be given more responsibility in a 2:1 model as a working pair allows for more checks and balances. Students spend more time practicing, problem solving and in reflective discussion without increasing the time commitment of the clinical educator.
Collaborative peer learning has also been shown to decrease anxiety and fear among students and the peer support often leads to an increase in self-confidence, potentially resulting in better performance.

Clinical Educators Doria Bellows and Michelle Jacobs from BC Children’s Hospital were asked to share some tips from their experience offering 2:2 placements for MPT students. Here are some strategies for success:

  1. Organize the placement and plan the structure of the placement ahead of time.
  2. Initially meet as a team, 2 students and preceptor(s), and outline expectations: students should be instructed to collaborate and not compete – with each other, for new clients, new opportunities or the clinical educator’s time.

As with all placements, developing learning objectives at the start of placement guides the student learning and provides an objective measure of their performance for the evaluation. In a 2:1 placement, learning objectives should be co-created for each individual student as well as for the pair. Examples of learning objectives for the team might be around teamwork, collaborative leadership and conflict resolution.

Each of us has our preferred learning style and so it is recommended that individual meetings are set up with students to identify their own learning styles and goals for the placement and how each student prefers to receive feedback.

  1. Assign caseload opportunities for each student to lead while the other student provides support and feedback, and vice versa.
  2. Ongoing meetings throughout placement as a team and with each student individually and constantly re-evaluate and accommodate to optimize learning opportunities.

Doria and Michelle find that 2:2 placements work very well for them. They offered two final pieces of advice: Be flexible as a preceptor and adaptability of students is an asset in making this placement model work, and embrace a team approach to learning and respect individual differences.

If you would like to give this model of clinical education a try or you have any questions, please contact the UBC Department of Physical Therapy Clinical Education team at pt.placements@ubc.ca.