APTA Board of Directors Plan Supporting Transition DPT

The decision to develop a transition DPT program is fully within the prerogative of institutions of higher education. However, APTA has chosen to take a supporting role through the development of voluntary products/resources that have been designed to serve the interests of licensed physical therapists, postprofessional PT education programs, and the entire profession. Even though the transition of physical therapy to a doctoring profession is a long-term process, APTA's Board of Directors enthusiastically adopted a "Plan in Support of the Postprofessional Clinical Doctorate" in November 2000 to facilitate the acquisition of the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) by US-licensed physical therapists. The plan involves four phases:

Phase I: Consensus-based competencies, including  "indicator" Tasks, that represent the preferred outcomes for the graduate of a transition clinical doctorate program (analogous to the educational outcomes of the physical therapist professional (entry-level) education program);

Phase II: Preferred Curricular Guide that serves as a foundation for decisions about the scope, depth, and rigor of content in a transition DPT program;

Phase III: A valid evaluation tool that offers learners a consistent mechanism for documenting their knowledge, skills, and behaviors when applying to a transition DPT program;

Phase IV  (optional): The development of a pool of "adjunct" faculty that offers coursework identified in the curricular guide to programs that, for whatever reason, would like to augment their faculty and teaching resources. Both the faculty and the offered courses would meet established high-quality criteria and requirements to ensure that if desired by a program, the coursework would be of sufficient rigor to warrant institutional credit.

All of these "products" are voluntary. APTA is convinced that these resources will be viewed as beneficial simply because they can: 1) provide a valid and reliable mechanism for the consistent evaluation of a learner's knowledge, skills, and behaviors, 2) provide a credible starting point for the design and development of a t-DPT program curriculum by program faculties, and 3) reaffirm the principle that a transition program is intended to provide an academic augmentation that is analogous to the current professional education DPT standard, and that focuses on the changes that have occurred in physical therapy practice over the past 5 to 7 years, (Note: In the case of those programs that provide a pathway to advanced clinical skills or specialist certifications, APTA will encourage the use of the "advanced clinical doctorate" terminology rather than the "transition" terminology.) The main purpose of this summary is to briefly describe these products/resources, including important benefits, and to provide a clear explanation of their use by a learner/applicant.  

Preferred Outcome Competencies Of The t-DPT Graduate And Tasks

The outcome competencies, developed through a consensus process (2001), represent the preferred knowledge, skills, and behaviors of the graduate of a t-DPT program. They were developed using the Guide to Physical Therapist Practice (2nd Edition) and A Normative Model of Physical Therapist Professional Education (Version 2000) and an understanding that a t-DPT program curriculum should be most analogous to the professional (entry-level) DPT curriculum.

The Tasks are "indicators" (what you would see the learner doing in practice) of achieved outcome competencies. The 148 Tasks, individually and in the aggregate, reflect the knowledge, skills, and behaviors acquired by the graduate of a t-DPT program. These Tasks form the basis of the Task Performance Component (TPC) of the Physical Therapist Evaluation Tool (PTET).

Preferred Curricular Guide For The t-DPT Program (Enclosure)

Content experts developed the Preferred Curricular Guide for the t-DPT Program in a consensus conference using a structured decision-making process (2001). A total of 33 modules were created representing the content areas that have been augmented over the past five to seven years. This augmentation is considered essential for the licensed physical therapist who may have graduated prior to academic programs awarding the professional clinical doctorate (DPT). All of the modules are fully congruent with the patient/client management model in the Guide to Physical Therapist Practice, 2nd Edition  and the consensus-based educational outcomes and curricular content for professional education  in A Normative Model of Physical Therapist Professional Education, Version 2000. 

Specific modules (eg, clinical pharmacology, research methods/design) are identified by name and number. The number indicates the order of the sample module within the overall 33 modules. A description of each module is provided and the primary content is intended to provide guidance for faculty in structuring learning objectives when teaching the module. Of course, modules can be pulled apart or combined depending upon the program s curriculum. Also included are cross references for the comparable primary content within the foundational sciences, behavioral sciences, clinical sciences, and practice expectations (1-19) in A Normative Model of Physical Therapist Professional Education: Version 2000. An additional cross-reference links modules to the specific Tasks associated with the Outcome Competencies. 

Physical Therapist Evaluation Tool (Enclosure)

The Physical Therapist Evaluation Tool (PTET) consists of the Portfolio Component (PC) and the Task Performance Component (TFC). Neither component is a stand-alone item; in fact, the two components together are not meant to be stand-alone items. Rather, they are designed to serve as the basic elements of an admission review process that, when combined with your preferred institutional admissions assessment process, provides a more comprehensive "picture" of the applicant, a stronger rationale for an admission decision, and some direction for designing a learner-centered curriculum that takes into full account the knowledge, skills, and behaviors of the practitioner.

Portfolio Component (PC)

The PC provides the learner/applicant with a mechanism for explaining and elaborating on their past and current experiences and capabilities. The t-DPT Task Force developed a comprehensive list of items for possible inclusion in a portfolio that academic programs and institutions might consider essential for admissions into a Transition DPT Program. Program directors were asked to identify from a list of possible items, those items that would be essential to include in a portfolio for the purpose of admission into the program and to determine a learner s capabilities and experiences. Program directors also suggested additional items or modified existing items. Based on feedback, 21 items were systematically organized for ease of completion by the learner/applicant, rewritten to ensure clarity, and matched with all 148 Tasks to ensure that information contained in the Task Performance Component could be triangulated with information contained in the Portfolio component.

Task Performance Component (TPC)

The TPC is a mechanism to evaluate the frequency with which the learner/applicant performs all 148 Tasks in current or past (within 10 years) practice as compared with a norm-reference group of DPT practitioners with between one and five years of experience. The 148 Tasks are organized in the TPC by task categories (eg, communication, individual and cultural differences, professional behavior, etc) that are identical to the content categories found in A Normative Model of Physical Therapist Professional Education, Version 2000. All 148 Tasks are written as single-barreled items that can be responded to based on the frequency with which the item is performed using a continuous form scale. Some Tasks are posed under several different categories within a different context to ensure validity of learner responses.

The norm referenced score report provides the reviewer with a consistent means to make judgments about a learner/applicant s knowledge, skills, and behaviors based on the frequency with which the learner performs the identified Tasks as compared with the norm group. Since the Tasks are linked to both outcome competencies and curricular content, a more accurate picture of the learner's capabilities can be determined. It is anticipated, as the PTET continues to be used that it will be reevaluated on an ongoing basis to reexamine the norm reference that is being used to assess the Task Performance Component.

Use Of The PTET (for the learner)

The learner/applicant who desires to use the PTET should take the following steps (full instructions will be available to the learner/applicant)

1. Contact Credentialing Services, Inc. (CS) for a hardcopy PTET, including the Op-Scan answer sheet and return-mail envelope. A copy will also be posted on APTA's Web site; however, even if the Portfolio component is completed online, the Task Performance component will have to be completed using a printed copy of the Web-based application (with completed Portfolio) and the hardcopy Op-Scan answer sheet that is available from Credentialing Services, Inc.

2. Complete the application (Portfolio and Task Performance Components).

3. Indicates the specific transition DPT programs that should receive the PTET report (the first report is included in the fee; additional reports require an additional fee).

4. Use the return-mail envelope to return the completed application, a copy of the physical therapist license, proof of APTA membership (number, expiration, and copy of membership card), and a money order or check as payment of the APTA member or non-member fee in full.

5. Expect confirmation that the PTET is complete or, if not complete, notification of missing items. If complete, the score on the Task Performance Component (assessed against the norm-referenced group) will be included with the confirmation.

The benefits of the PTET to the learner/applicant include, among others:

  • One location/document to complete for program admission (depending upon program preferences).
  • Provides a mechanism for self-evaluation relative to a DPT norm reference group.
  • Provides an overview of the preferred transition program curriculum.
  • Provides a valid basis for negotiating a learner-centered curriculum.
  • Provides a consistent evaluation mechanism for all users of the PTET

Use of the PTET (for the academic program)

Now a few words about how the PTET results will be reported to the academic program. The process includes the following steps, among others: 

1. The learner/applicant secures and completes the PTET. The PTET is available from Credentialing Services, Inc. (CS) -- the contractor for the development, scoring, and management of the evaluation tool reports. The PTET will be available on the APTA Web site in Summer 2002. However, the Web site version still requires the hardcopy Op-Scan answer sheet and return-mail envelope that are available from CS.

2. The learner submits the completed application and fee (see above) directly to CS. Programs do not pay any PTET fees. Programs may charge the applicant any additional institutional admission fee or require additional information if required by the institution (eg, GRE, MAT). APTA has no role in collecting, reviewing, scoring, or otherwise processing the application.

3. CS will require 4-6 weeks to process the application. In addition to ensuring that the application is complete and the task analysis component is scored, CS will compile a PTET report packet that will include the learner's score on the Task Performance Component, the completed Portfolio Component, including such items as employment history, undergraduate and graduate degrees, and verification of professional credentials. These reports can be customized in advance and at your request so that the Tasks in the Task Performance Component can be correlated with your specific t-DPT program courses, thereby facilitating decisions about how the curriculum could be designed to take into account the knowledge, skills, and behaviors of the learner.

4. The learner will receive a confirmation that the required PTET is complete or if not complete, notification to provide any missing items. Learners will have identified the programs that should receive the PTET report packet; CS will mail a report packet to all programs selected by the applicant. Learners will also receive their Task Performance Component score (assessed against the norm-referenced group).

5. Upon receipt of the CS report packet, programs will be able to interpret the results. Because the Tasks (indicators of achieved competencies) have been linked to the Portfolio Component and to the content in the Preferred Curricular Guide (or to the academic program's curriculum), admissions personnel will be able to "triangulate" between the Task Performance Component score, the Portfolio Component, and the content in the Preferred Curricular Guide. For example, if the Task Performance score or frequency of task performance seem to be inconsistent with the norm reference group, the associated Tasks can be identified and correlated with knowledge and experience on the Portfolio Component.

6. Should an academic program be interested in customizing the 148 Tasks to specific t-DPT coursework, the program should provide in writing at the earliest convenience, a document that identifies how the program would like the Tasks to be matched to the courses. If there are Tasks that do not match, they should be noted as "Not Applicable" (N/A).

The benefits of the PTET to the transition DPT program admissions process include, among others: 

  • Facilitates admission decisions.
  • Facilitates the collection of most, if not all, admissions materials.
  • Facilitates the evaluation of learners with varying professional degrees and clinical experience.
  • Facilitates decisions to waive courses/content.
  • Facilitates decisions to reduce graduation requirements based on learner capabilities.
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