Reflections on blended learning in clinical education

A few weeks ago I was invited by one of the local groups of the South African Society of Physiotherapy to  present the initial results of my PhD research into the use of blended learning in clinical education. Afterwards, I was surprised by the support I received from the clinicians, and at the resistance (or misunderstanding?) by some of the academics.

After thinking about it for a while, I realised that this makes sense. Clinicians are probably going to welcome anything that may result in a more competent physiotherapy graduate, while academics may be more concerned with a perceived value judgement on the work that they’re doing (“What’s wrong with the way we’re doing it?”). If my research shows that a blended approach to clinical education has potential to enhance practice knowledge at an undergraduate level, pressure to change may be brought to bear on academics, not clinicians.

Another thing I was thinking about is the difference between the “hard” science of clinical contexts, and the “soft” science of educational contexts. I had people asking me how the social aspects of teaching and learning could be analysed via randomised controlled trials, and that anything less would have limited value in physiotherapy education. I realised that if you have a background where evidence is constituted by quantitative research, the qualitative aspect of social science is going to seem messy and difficult to work with.

Here’s the presentation I gave: