Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning


The purpose of this 2-part study was to investigate the impact of an international service-learning experience (SOLE) on physical therapy (PT) students. The quantitative component compared outcomes relating to civic attitude, interpersonal and problem-solving skills, political awareness, leadership skills, social justice attitudes, and diversity attitudes of PT students who participated in the SOLE to PT students who did not participate. The qualitative portion asked the following questions: 1) What beliefs and attitudes did PT students gain from an international service-learning experience? and 2) Did an international service-learning experience assist the PT student in assuming the role of a servant leader? The subjects were 25 PT students in their second year of a professional master’s degree program. Of the 25 students, 12 volunteered for the optional international SOLE in Guatemala and 13 elected to stay on campus and participate in a non-service-learning class (CRHC). All students completed the Civic Attitudes and Skills Questionnaire at the beginning of the spring semester and upon completion of either the SOLE or the CRHC class. The qualitative portion triangulated the information by coding data gathered from a post-SOLE focus group, student journal entries, and researcher observations.

Students involved in the SOLE showed improvements in the sub-scale measuring social justice attitudes. Students not involved in the SOLE showed increases in the sub-scales measuring both social justice attitudes and leadership skills. Both groups of students showed a decrease in the sub-scale measuring interpersonal and problem solving skills. Data analysis of the focus group and journal entries resulted in the identification of five major themes and 8 subthemes: 1) students need to have their basic physiological needs met (food, sleep, shopping, living arrangements, contact home); 2) students’ perception of the characteristics of the people of Guatemala; 3) students’ sense of frustration (frustration with the injustices of the healthcare system and living conditions, feelings of helplessness, and frustration with the communication barriers); 4) students’ ability to make a difference; and 5) self-actualization. The results of this study support the use of service-learning as a pedagogical method in PT education if students are well-prepared and receive guidance in setting realistic goals.