As we live in a globalized society, students of physical therapy must be exposed to opportunities for developing intercultural competence. This need for intercultural competence amongst physical therapists becomes a challenge to course instructors as not all faculty and students have the financial means to travel to foreign lands during graduate courses. How can you provide a learning experience for physical therapy students in a United States classroom or elsewhere, which challenges the students’ cultural knowledge, intercultural sensitivity and openness to others? Would creating a virtual intercultural experience consulting on a patient case provide the desired opportunity? University of Findlay faculty developed an online Skype session for American physical therapy students to discuss a patient case with Haitian physical therapy students to facilitate an intercultural exchange.
A qualitative assessment of the Skype session’s impact on cultural knowledge, intercultural sensitivity, and openness to others was conducted 4 months later amongst University of Findlay Traditional and Weekend Bridge Doctor of Physical Therapy students as well as Haitian physical therapy students.
Multiple themese emerged from the reflective student assessments. The themes expressed by only Haitian physical therapy students included: a universal discipline and similar education. The theme expressed by only American students was the differing cultures. The themes expressed by both Haitian and American students included: an intriguing and exciting exchange, collaboration revealed a different perspective, and Haitian resources are restrictive.
Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: Through the Looking Glass: Transforming Physical Therapy Education
This innovative use of technology in the classrooms of two different countries did provide an exchange of cultural knowledge, sensitivity, and openness. While additional intercultural exchanges would be encouraged, this exchange brought intrigue and openness to a different perspective while providing an alternative means of access to a differing culture.
1.American Physical Therapy Association. Blueprint for teaching cultural competence in physical therapy education. https://www.apta.org/Educators/Curriculum/APTA/CulturalCompetence/. Accessed on March 20, 2017.
2.Ciftci, EY. A review of research on intercultural learning through computer-based digital technologies. Educational Technology & Society. 2016;19(2):313-327.
3.Harrison, N. Practice, problems and power in ‘internationalisation at home’: critical reflections on recent research evidence. Teaching in Higher Education. 2015;20(4):412-430.