New York Medical College

School of Health Sciences and Practice

Doctor Of Physical Therapy DPT Program Professional Development


In the Department of Physical Therapy at New York Medical College, each student is expected to acquire, in addition to academic knowledge and psychomotor skills, the values and professional behaviors required to be a competent and caring physical therapist. The process of becoming a physical therapist begins on the first day of class in the first year and evolves progressively over the three years the student spends at NYMC.

The approach towards facilitating professional development used by the Department of Physical Therapy at NYMC utilizes a professional behavior assessment framework initially developed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison by Warren May and colleagues (Journal of Physical Therapy Education. 9:1, Spring 1995). A recent updating and revising of this framework has led to the Professional Behaviors Assessment Tool described here.

Two key elements drive this approach. First, faculty expectations regarding student professional behaviors are clearly communicated to the students. Second, students participate in the assessment of their own professional behaviors, as well as those of their classmates, to determine whether stage-appropriate levels of professional behaviors are being displayed.

The purpose of this document is to describe the expectations regarding professional behaviors for students in the Department of Physical Therapy at New York Medical College and to outline the program procedures for guiding, monitoring, mentoring, remediating when necessary, and promoting in students entry-level professional behaviors.

Professional Behavior is the Ability to Use Knowledge in Clinical Settings

Professional behavior refers to the ability to use academic knowledge and psychomotor skills, and display appropriate values and behaviors in real clinical settings. It requires the following higher level skills:

generalizing from one context to another

integrating information from different sources

applying knowledge and skills in the practice setting

synthesizing cognitive, affective, and psychomotor behaviors

interacting effectively with patients, families, the community, and other professionals

May and colleagues (1995) initially used a survey approach to identify what was initially referred to as a “core set of generic abilities” for physical therapists. Since then, these generic abilities have been used by numerous programs as a means of operationally defining the construct of professionalism and to provide a structure for students and faculty in evaluating and promoting professional development. In a later revised version of this approach the term “generic abilities” was replaced with “professional behaviors”.

Ability-Based Learning is a Systematic Approach to Professional Development

The physical therapy program has instituted a systematic approach to promote and assess professional development and behaviors, rather than simply assume that students will develop appropriate professional behaviors autonomously. This approach incorporates the professional socialization process into the formal curriculum by focusing on student competence in different types of professional behaviors at key points in the curriculum.
The Professional Behaviors Assessment Tool used in this process includes four general stages of professional development in which the student reaches progressively higher levels of accomplishment: a beginning level, an intermediate level, an entry level, and post-entry level. When the entry level has been reached, the student is considered ready to function independently as a physical therapist; in other words, the student is ready for graduation. The post-entry level is used for students who show unusually high levels of professional behavior that rise above usual expectations of graduates.
In order to judge whether a student has reached a particular level of accomplishment, the professional behaviors are further elaborated into sets of criteria. These are more specific examples of behaviors that are associated with each level. The criterion for professional behaviors, specific levels of accomplishment, and the semesters in which students are expected to attain that level is described in this document.

The Development of Professional Behaviors Occurs Through Self-Assessment

Self-assessment is the fundamental method of ability-based learning. Assessment refers to a process of evaluating performance related to specific professional behaviors. Assessment is carried out by considering examples of how the individual demonstrates the particular behavior in specific contexts, judging those example behaviors against identified criteria for performance, and attempting to construct as full as possible a picture of that behavior as displayed by the learner. Here at NYMC, the initial assessment is done by the student. Thus, students learn to assess their performance according to established criteria.

Self-Assessment and Validation is Repeated Each Semester

Self-assessment and validation of the assessment is carried out during each of the semesters students are on campus. These processes involve the following: First, expectations regarding professional development are explained to students early in the educational program. Second, students learn to assess whether they have achieved these expectations. To assist in this process, after students have completed their written self-assessment (see form below) the assessments are brought to and discussed in a professional development group that includes a small number of classmates and a faculty advisor. The professional development faculty advisor assists students in this process by facilitating group discussions. Third, faculty members meet as a group and validate each student’s self-assessment, considering relevant comments from the professional development group meetings. If the self-assessment is not considered accurate and not validated, students are required to redo the self-assessment. Fourth, if a student does not meet the required criteria during a particular semester, a plan of action is developed by the student and faculty advisor and approved by the faculty.

Students Must Reach the Required Levels of Accomplishment
in Order to Progress Through the Program and Graduate

The table on the next page describes four levels of accomplishment of professional behaviors, and the semesters in which students are (1) expected and (2) required to achieve each level. Students are expected to reach the beginning level of accomplishment by the end of the Fall I semester, the intermediate level by the end of Spring I, and the entry level by the end of Fall II. Students are required to reach the beginning level of accomplishment by the end of the Spring I semester, the intermediate level by the end of Fall II, and the entry level by the end of Spring II. If the faculty determines that a student has not developed the level of professional development that is required by the end of a semester, that student will be placed on academic probation. This will remove the student from good standing, which will preclude the student from progressing on to a clinical education component of the curriculum. If this occurs, the student must meet with the faculty to establish a professional development remediation plan. Successful completion of this plan will be required for a return to good standing, and further advancement through the program. For further details, refer to the Student Handbook section Standards of Conduct of the Department of Physical Therapy. We consider professional development to be as crucial a component of the education of students as their academic knowledge and psychomotor skills.

Professional Behaviors

Professional behaviors are attributes, characteristics, or actions that are not explicitly part of the profession's core of knowledge and technical skills but are nevertheless required for success in the profession. Ten professional behaviors, definitions, criteria, and stages of professional development are described by the Professional Behaviors Assessment Tool utilized by the Department of Physical Therapy to guide, monitor, mentor, remediate when necessary, and promote in students entry-level professional behaviors. See the Student Handbook section Professional Behaviors Assessment Tool (May, Kontney, & Iglarsh, 2009)”. The materials provided in this section are to be used by students as their primary reference when completing their professional development self-assessments.

Clich here to view the Pofessional Behaviors - Self Assessment Form


Page updated: March 23, 2015