Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Campus-Only Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Elizabeth Allan

Second Committee Member

Susan Gardner

Third Committee Member

Sarah Mackenzie


This dissertation study examines adjunct faculty members’ understanding and use of active learning theory and methods, disaggregating and examining those who teach as singletopic experts in physical therapist education programs (designated as STAFM). This study adds to the scholarship about active learning because few studies, particularly in the healthcare professions, have explored active learning theory understanding and use by adjunct faculty and the influence of STAFM professional demographics. Twenty-six percent of the physical therapy program director-identified STAFM who were responsible for teaching more than 50% of a course participated in a national online survey to explore their understanding and use of active learning theory concepts, models, and methods. Analysis of 149 completed surveys provided response frequencies to 30 theory statements demonstrating >75% agreement with active learning in 66% of the theory statements. STAFM reported high exposure to 15 and use of 12 of the 32 concepts, methods, and methods. Reported levels of exposure and use of the learning concepts, models, and methods were highly related to each other. Ordinal regressions showed statistically significant relationships for 16 active and 6 pedagogical theory statements with their statistically significant concepts, models, and methods while controlling for statistically significant professional demographics.

Results revealed STAFM demonstrated significant understanding of active learning theory, although they tended to teach from a pedagogical, not active learning, frame. Responses indicated high reliance on six methods: Lectures, followed by Student-led discussions, Teacher- directed learning, Assigned independent reading, Literature searches, and Student presentations of content. Reported understanding of active learning could be partially explained by the variables: Attend college courses about education and Non-teaching work status, exposure to Cooperative learning, Think-pair-share, Journaling, Literature searches, Learning objectives, and Problem-based learning, and use of Learning objectives, Distance learning, Clicker use, and Student-led discussions. Pedagogical learning responses were partially explained by: Attend teaching workshops/seminars and Attend college courses about education, and the use of Pedagogy: The study of how children learn and Teacher-directed learning. Recommendations support program directors in efforts to assess STAFM exposure and use of active learning theory and STAFM professional development focusing on active learning.