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Queen’s Physical Therapy program first in Canada to use competency-based education

Queen’s Physical Therapy program first in Canada to use competency-based education

Queen’s University’s Physical Therapy (PT) Program is transitioning to a new model of learning: competency-based education (CBE).

Starting in September 2023 with the incoming PT class of 2025, students in the School of Rehabilitation program will participate in a re-designed curriculum that builds essential competencies as they train to become physiotherapists.

CBE is designed to graduate practitioners who are confident, highly skilled, and ready for the workforce. Training is organized around essential competencies and milestones (e.g., competencies related to physiotherapy expertise, communication, collaboration, management, leadership, scholarship, and professionalism) rather than content areas. A milestone is an ability that is expected of a physiotherapist at a specific stage in their training. Together, many milestones make up a competency. CBE is structured to progress through milestones over time, and revisit concepts at increasing levels of complexity. 

“Competency-based education will provide our students with flexibility in learning, frequent opportunities for low stakes assessment and feedback, and well-defined learning outcomes,” says Dr. Sunita Mathur, Associate Director, Physical Therapy. “Our focus on ability development will gradually prepare our learners to become practice-ready physiotherapists.”  

The two-year PT program will continue to provide academic and clinical education experiences outlined by the National Physiotherapy Entry-to-Practice Curriculum Guideline, but the new CBE structure will allow for the customized development, assessment, and reinforcement of the competencies required for licensure. 

“Queen’s has been at the forefront of implementing competency-based education in our health sciences programs,” says Stephanie Nixon, Vice-Dean (Health Sciences) and Director, School of Rehabilitation Therapy. “This is in line with a pan-Canadian shift to more responsive and accountable educational models for health professionals. We are proud to be first in the country to bring this developmental and educational focus to Physical Therapy.”

Program highlights: 

  • A spiral curriculum in which concepts and milestones are revisited at increasing levels of complexity.  
  • Custom-designed online system for tracking progress and providing ongoing feedback.   
  • Five clinical physiotherapy placements (7 weeks each, 1025+ total hours). 
  • Developmental steps that allow students to grow as trainees – from an initial stage of requiring assistance, to performing clinical tasks independently, to unsupervised execution. 

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