Impact of guided self-study on learning success in undergraduate physiotherapy students in Switzerland – a feasibility study of a higher education intervention

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Guided self-study (G-SS) can be used as a self-directed learning method or self-determined learning that fosters changes in knowledge and skills in a higher physiotherapy education setting. Until now, there has been no empirical evidence for the use of G-SS in higher physiotherapy education. This study aimed to investigate the feasibility to establish a G-SS program in a fulltime undergraduate physiotherapy degree course. In addition, the effectiveness of the G-SS was assessed on changes in knowledge and skills.

Fifty-one first-semester physiotherapy students were randomly divided into a G-SS group or control group (CG). The G-SS group received six clinical cases. Each case was processed in an eight-day cycle. One week in advance, the clinical case were provided to the students electronically (day 1). The students prepared the cases in groups and were guided by the tutor during this preparation time (day 2 to 7). Group work results were presented and reflected on during a moderated plenum session at day 8. A priori criteria of success were defined based on empirical experience for the primary outcome parameters i) exposure, ii) responsiveness of students and iii) program differentiation. The secondary outcome was the total score in the objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) and written exams. Statistical analyses were conducted using SPSS.

The responsiveness of students as willing to participate in the G-SS program was 23%, clearly below the a priori set 83%. No differences in program differentiation were found. G-SS as compared to the CG scored significantly better on OSCE (p = 0.003) and on the written exam (p = 0.004).

The results showed that this higher education G-SS program in its current form was not feasible. Slight modification of the study protocol (e.g. better time planning in the academic calendar) is needed to improve the student’s responsiveness. The adjustments to the timetable must allow the physiotherapy students to prepare the clinical cases under conditions of lower workload. G-SS has the potential to promote change in knowledge and skills in undergraduate physiotherapy students when students prepare and present the clinical case solutions and reflect upon their actions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number362
Number of pages8
JournalBMC Medical Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2021


  • higher educatiom
  • learning success
  • self-study


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