Program Assessment in Physical Therapy Education: The Transition to Use of New Criteria

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Physical therapist programs are required to perform assessments to evaluate program effectiveness and facilitate improvement. Until recently, Section 4 of the Evaluative Criteria for Accreditation of Education Programs for the Preparation of Physical Therapists focused on assessment of program graduates. In January 1998, additional criteria for program assessment became effective. The criteria include evaluation of graduates in addition to 10 program components related to program content, management, and resources, for a total of 11 assessment criteria. The purposes of this study were: 1) to identify the extent to which programs already assess areas related to the 11 assessment criteria and 2) to learn how academic administrators of physical therapist programs rate the criteria in terms of their importance to program effectiveness. A survey instrument with Likert-type scales was used to gather information from academic administrators of accredited and developing physical therapist programs in the United States. A total of 74 (50%) of the accredited programs and 21 (50%) of the developing programs responded to the survey. For 51 of the 60 items listed in the survey instrument, 90% or more of the respondents indicated they are already actively involved in assessment. The majority of respondents reported that they evaluate the items on a formal basis, indicating that supportive documentation is most likely available. Ninety percent of the respondents rated 10 of the 11 assessment criteria as being important to program effectiveness. Findings may provide useful information to programs as they attend to meeting the new criteria required for accreditation.

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