Date of Award

January 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Research

First Advisor

Joshua Hunter


Clinical education is a large component of athletic training education and is centered on social learning. Students learn how an athletic trainer functions through exposure to a community of practice. As students transition towards full participants in the clinical environment, they get to practice their skills and begin developing their professional identity. As the profession prepares to transition to solely entry-level master’s degrees in 2022, many athletic training programs will need to alter and re-evaluate the clinical experiences available for students. This phenomenological study explored social learning within the clinical environment with an emphasis on how interactions within these communities of practice influenced professional identity development. Data collection consisted of athletic training students, each completing two interviews, and preceptor focus groups. The results of this study found through collaboration with others and exposure to competent members within the community students learn what it entails to be an athletic trainer. The students slowly developed instances where they identified as an athletic trainer through a variety of social pressures, communication factors, and by building relationships. Understanding these interactions is beneficial for the upcoming transition and the development of updated policies and procedures geared toward providing quality anticipatory socialization for athletic training students.