Evaluation of an International Service-Learning/Clinical Education Experience Utilizing an Existing Conceptual Model

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Background and Purpose.

In order to foster the development of cultural competence in students, some physical therapist education programs include an international service-learning (ISL) or international clinical education (ICE) experience in the curriculum. The purpose of this paper is to describe the process of evaluation and planned enhancement of an ISL/ICE experience in rural Nicaragua using Pechak and Thompson's conceptual model of optimal ISL as a guide.

Case Description.

The physical therapist education program at our university includes a 3-week pediatric clinical education experience that is completed by a cohort of students in the United States and a cohort in Nicaragua with a faculty member. The process developed by Pechak and Thompson was used to evaluate the international experience, describing the development, design, implementation, evaluation, and planned enhancement of the experience.


Analysis of student, community, and program outcomes revealed an acceptable structure for the student experience, the presence of reciprocal and strong relationships with the community, and evidence for sustainability of services. Areas for improvement for the ISL experience were also identified.

Discussion and Conclusion.

Evaluation of curricular content is an important aspect of educational assessment. We found that the conceptual model developed by Pechak and Thompson was a useful guide in the process of analyzing the strengths, areas for improvement, and planned enhancement of an ISL/ICE experience. Based on the evaluation, the decision was made to transition the experience from a clinical education course to a global education course. Areas of improvement for the ISL experience were also identified.

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