Original Research

Perceptions of physiotherapy clinical educators’ dual roles as mentors and assessors: Influence on teaching–learning relationships

Ilse S. Meyer, Alwyn Louw, Dawn Ernstzen
South African Journal of Physiotherapy | Vol 75, No 1 | a468 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajp.v75i1.468 | © 2019 Ilse S. Meyer | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 June 2018 | Published: 28 March 2019

About the author(s)

Ilse S. Meyer, Centre for Health Professions Education, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape town, South Africa
Alwyn Louw, Centre for Health Professions Education, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape town, South Africa
Dawn Ernstzen, Division of Physiotherapy, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape town, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Central to clinical education is the teaching–learning (T-L) relationship that evolves between the clinical educator (CE) and the student. Within this T-L relationship, CEs may be expected to fulfil dual roles as mentors and assessors of students. Challenges for both parties may arise when CEs take on these different roles.

Objectives: The goal of this study was to ascertain how CEs perceived the influence of their dual roles as mentors and assessors on their T-L relationships with physiotherapy students.

Method: Individual interviews were semi-structured with nine CEs during this qualitative descriptive study at the Division of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University. A content analysis followed to analyse the data obtained. An iterative process, aimed to understand the phenomena under study, was conducted via an interpretive approach in context. This revealed main themes that were identified and refined.

Results: Clinical educators experienced challenges when their role changed from being a mentor to that of assessor. These challenges affected the learning of students, as they influenced the T-L relationship. Clinical educators experienced ambiguities regarding their dual roles and, as a result, their expectations were often not fulfilled.

Conclusion: Students’ learning processes were negatively affected by the changing roles of CEs, who acted as mentors and later as assessors of clinical competence during the students’ clinical rotations. The positioning theory was offered as a framework to resolve the challenges created by the dual roles and to manage expectations between CEs and students. The T-L encounters could be enhanced if students and CEs aligned themselves to a learning-centred paradigm where the focus was on learning and where the needs of the diverse students and the expectations of CEs were balanced. Further research should explore how a workshop with role play, demonstrating to CEs in practice how to reposition themselves, would impact the relationships between both parties.

Clinical implications: It is essential to ensure a positive T-L relationship between a CE and a student as this will improve the quality of learning in the clinical environment and, therefore, directly influence student’s patient management. Implementing faculty development programmes to address this, should be further explored.


Keywords

physiotherapy; clinical education; teaching–learning relationship; learning-centred; dual roles

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