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