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Improving Students' Interpersonal Skills through Experiential Small Group Learning

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Journal of Learning Design Volume 9, Number 1, ISSN 1832-8342


Health professional students must be equipped with the skills necessary to interact with patients. Effective interpersonal skills are difficult to both learn and teach, requiring development, practise and evaluation in both educational and clinical settings. In professions such as physiotherapy, traditional approaches to teaching these skills have encompassed clinical modelling, and stand-alone didactic teaching of the theory behind communication. These provide limited opportunity for students to practise and receive feedback on their interpersonal and communication skills. This paper describes the implementation of an experiential small group learning approach in an undergraduate physiotherapy program and discusses outcomes. Implications for practice are that: experientially based small group learning with opportunities for practise, reflection, self-evaluation and feedback, can improve students' confidence and interpersonal skills; consistent and scaffolded participation in experiential learning opportunities and assessment of this participation across the program is key to this approach. Interpersonal skills remain a challenge for new graduates; support and mentoring in this domain by supervisors may enhance the transition to work.


Skinner, K.L., Hyde, S.J., McPherson, K.B.A. & Simpson, M.D. (2016). Improving Students' Interpersonal Skills through Experiential Small Group Learning. Journal of Learning Design, 9(1), 21-36. Retrieved November 14, 2019 from .

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