Academic vs Practical Learning (part one)

If you read this blog you probably know the folks whose mind-set I fall in line with. Cook, Weingroff, Reinold, Liebenson, etc. But there have been some great new minds that I have been able to pick lately, and people who have challenged me to advance myself even more professionally. I was recently involved in a brief but positive exchange of words with Don Reagan, who has been fortunate enough to be mentored by Gray Cook. Don asked if I could possibly talk about the importance of practical learning vs. academic learning. I thought, I’m definitely the guy to do this.

file0001576156215Qualifications and Disclaimers :The title of this series is academia VERSUS practical learning. Some may take this as implying a competition between the two. Let me be the first to say that there cannot be the mindset that a competition between the two exists. The two are not mutually exclusive. They are both needed. However, they both provide students with differing opportunities. I am a licensed and practicing physical therapist in California. I went to a college that afforded me the opportunity to take part in 2 co-operative learning experiences during my undergraduate degree within physical therapy clinics. This was followed by another year of clinicals while getting my doctoral degree. I was also working as a PT aide from my second year of college until the day before I graduated physical therapy school 5 years later. Because I am crazy, I tracked my hours in a PT clinic before graduating and it was over 6,000. Unfortunately I did not track my time spent in classes over this same time period, but I bet the numbers are strikingly close. My thoughts on physical therapy programs are out there, so I might as well state it here. I thought it was archaic. However, this does not sum up my feelings on academia.

The blog posts to follow this one will be sharp, and have purpose. There are many people who are willing to say that there are flaws with the current educational system for physical therapists with not enough focus on practical learning and antiquated academic learning institutions. These posts are going to describe the purpose, pro’s, and con’s of each aspect of learning and in developing quality, consistent, and progressive physical therapists.

Within the posts to come I am addressing certain topics such as:

Academia –

  • Colleges and Universities  aka PT Boot Camps
  • Educational foundations and compartmentalization of subjects
  • The bell curve, non-rigors of school, and the almighty dollar
  • General Specialists
  • Why Academia is the most important part of becoming a PT

Practical learning –

  • Clinics or the PT trenches
  • The importance of mentors and clinical instructors, learning from the insiders, and uncharted territory as the place we learn the most
  • Formation of methods and a comparison of PT to apprenticeships
  • Practice, we’re talking about practice

The National Physical Therapy Exam and Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education –

  • The NPTE
  • pro’s and cons of CAPTE’s generalist approach
  • The current healthcare system, compartmentalization of specialties and therefore academia

Suggestions for future and current PT students based on my own experiences –

  • How to work within the current systems to gain as much as possible
  • Laying the groundwork for change
  • A license to learn

I hope you will continue to follow this series as an interested and engaged reader with questions and suggestions for future, current, or even past PT students.

Always Evolve,


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