Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Adult and Lifelong Learning (EdD)

Degree Level



Curriculum and Instruction


Kevin Roessger

Committee Member

Kit Kacirek

Second Committee Member

Kenda Grover


Anxiety, Healthcare Education, Learning Communities, Physical Therapy Students, Stress, Wellness


Healthcare education guides students in obtaining skills to promote health in others. In working towards this goal, graduate students in healthcare programs potentially suffer from increased stress while undergoing the rigor of a medically based academic program. The purpose of this study was to determine if the addition of a learning community program had an effect on the perceived wellness of first year doctor of physical therapy students. A repeated measures quasi-experimental design was used to answer the three research questions, which guided the investigation. Three groups of participants completed the study, one serving as the experimental group with the learning communities intervention and two serving as the control groups. The participant groups were surveyed at four time points throughout the first year of the academic program. The assessment instrument utilized to determine student wellness was the Perceived Wellness Scale (PWS). Mixed design ANOVA tests were used to evaluate mean differences between PWS scores over the four time points. Participants in the experimental condition did not show improvements in PWS over time relative to the control conditions. Participants’ age and gender did not moderate the effect of learning communities. Three conclusions based on these findings are offered. Although the current study did not provide significant results to recommend learning communities as an intervention for students in physical therapy programs at this time, it must be remembered this is the first study to address the use of learning communities in physical therapy. Potential explanations of the findings of the current study lead to further inquiry on the topic of learning communities within physical therapy programs. Four recommendations are made to further research on this topic.