Addressing Neurophobia - Boosting Self-Confidence With Active Learning
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Addressing Neurophobia - Boosting Self-Confidence With Active Learning

August 9, 2023

Neuroscience is a topic that can be intimidating or challenging for many people, but it is a subject in which many future healthcare professionals are expected to achieve competency. So what happens when a health professions student struggles with the intricacies and complexities of the nervous system and neurological disorders? And how can educators address this issue? That is what Jeanne P. Welch, PT, EdD, DPT, NCS, associate chair and professor, in the Department of Physical Therapy at PCOM Georgia is trying to determine.

What is Neurophobia?

Neurophobia describes students’ fear of neurology and their ensuing inability to apply neuroscience concepts and learnings in a clinical setting.

The American Academy of Neurology notes that the aging U.S. population will increase the need for practitioners capable of treating patients with neurologic diseases. Addressing neurophobia is critical in order to ensure future healthcare providers can utilize basic neurological knowledge at a patient’s bedside.

Addressing Neurophobia in the Classroom

Jeanne P. Welch, PT, EdD, DPT, NCS
Jeanne P. Welch, PT, EdD, DPT, NCS

Welch teaches clinical neuroscience to Doctor of Physical Therapy students.

“Most of them express neurophobia, which may limit their ability to learn, retain, and apply neuroscience concepts,” Welch said.

Through active classroom learning, Welch hopes to increase student engagement and learning. This, she explained, could positively influence the student’s perceived self-confidence in applying neuroscience concepts.

“Physical therapy students and other healthcare practitioners who have self-confidence in applying learned concepts in the classroom can possibly transfer this skill to the clinical setting, influencing their ability to care for patients with neurological impairment as future practicing clinicians,” Welch added.

As part of her research, Welch has employed active learning strategies, such as group projects and case scenarios.

Key Points
  • Active learning raises self-confidence for DPT students in applying neuroscience concepts.
  • Experiential, learner-centered methods, like group work, enhance engagement.
  • Classroom confidence translates to better neurological care as future healthcare professionals.

“I use experiential learning in the form of active learning to increase student participation by having students work in small groups applying the concepts that we are learning,” she explained.

Welch developed a Student Perceived Levels of Self-Confidence Scale (SPLSC) neuroscience survey encompassing 14 neuroscience concept variables to measure the impact of these teaching strategies.

“The results of the study indicated that there was an overall positive impact on the DPT students’ perceptions of self-confidence in applying neuroscience concepts learned over the academic term, as well as a statistically significant difference found between the median of the differences between the pretest and post-test surveys,” she said.

A wall decoration shaped like a bee and labeled with spinal components.
Welch employs active learning to help her students understand neuroscience concepts.

Welch’s research highlights the importance of designing and implementing course material in a way that enhances student learning.

“An active learning environment that is learner-centered fosters student engagement, which leads to increased learning,” she said. “This increase in learning may influence a student's self-confidence in applying learned concepts.”

For Welch, helping her students excel in the classroom is just part of what she hopes to accomplish.

“I hope my students recognize that I am invested in their learning and assisting them in becoming the best clinicians they can be,” she said.

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