Clinical learning spaces: Crucibles for practice development in physiotherapy clinical education

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17 Citations (Scopus)


This paper, through a deep examination of clinical workplaces as learning spaces, uses a holistic interpretation of clinical education and offers a practice development crucible metaphor as a useful way to deepen how clinical education can be conceptualized. An in-depth conceptualization of clinical education is needed if educators are able to develop wise educational practice and optimize the time students spend in clinical learning settings. The research reported here was undertaken in the qualitative paradigm guided by philosophical hermeneutics. Data collection strategies included observation, semi-structured interviews, focus groups and photo-elicitation. Twenty-four undergraduate physiotherapy students and twelve physiotherapy clinical supervisors participated in this research. Consistent with hermeneutic principles of dialogue of question and answer and hermeneutic circle, data analysis was achieved through an iterative process of reading, interpreting and re-reading the transcripts resulting in the emergence of a deeper understanding of clinical education that is represented for the reader. Clinical education has been revealed as a multidimensional learning space where workplace influences, engagement in professional practices, clinical supervisors’ intentions and actions in combination with students’ dispositions interact to shape and challenge students’ clinical learning. A practice development crucible metaphor has been introduced as a way to represent this complexity and conceptualize clinical education, not as a set of techniques or supervision ratios but as a relational, fluid, complex space where learning is catalyzed. Importantly, the crucible metaphor assists academics, clinical supervisors and students to harness the power of clinical education to facilitate learning during clinical placements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)589-599
Number of pages11
JournalPhysiotherapy Theory and Practice
Issue number8
Early online dateJan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 03 Aug 2018


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