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Our researchers aim to advance the USC Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy’s vision for transforming physical therapy education. We study and disseminate best practices in teaching and learning from classroom to clinical settings.

Knowledge about best practices in teaching and learning within physical therapy education can be applied to maximize student engagement, faculty effectiveness, and ultimately quality of patient care.  Among the areas we study:

  • Innovative curricular models, including hybrid delivery and flipped classroom
  • Inclusive learning design and health/social justice
  • Educational technology
  • Student engagement and learning outcomes
  • Faculty development best practices

We seek to engage and collaborate with a national network of colleagues interested in advancing physical therapy education.

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Mike Andersen, PT, DPT
Psychomotor learning
Delivery models
Mentoring of DPT students

Kate Havens, PhD
Anatomy education

Dan Kirages, PT, DPT
Integration of scope of practice into curricular design (pelvic health)

Didi Matthews, PT, DPT
Curricular assessment and thread development
Faculty development

Monica Nelsen, PT, DPT
Curricular integration



Eric Robertson, PT, DPT
Clinical reasoning assessment
Delivery models
Layered learning

Elise Ruckert, PT, DPT
Instructional design/Course design
Mindset and student engagement in learning

Chris Sebelski, PT, DPT, PhD (external partner; St. Louis University)
Leadership KSAs (knowledge, skills, attitudes) through competency-based education

Julie Tilson, PT, DPT, MS
Evidence integration and assimilation
Physical therapy education learning outcomes

Educational Scholarship across lines of inquiry:

Innovative curricular models, including hybrid delivery and flipped classroom

  • Martinez C, Tilson JK. Controlled comparison of a flipped classroom evidence-based practice course delivered online or on-campus [published online ahead of print, 2021 Jan 5]. BMJ Evid Based Med. 2021;bmjebm-2020-111522.
  • Blackington, M, Fritz S, Gagnon, K, Landers, M, Matthews, ND, Santasier, A, Varnado K. Talk to the Experts: Best Practice for Overcoming Challenges in Online & Blended Learning Environments. ACAPT Webinar, September 10, 2020.
  • Tilson, J, Andersen, M, Havens, K, Krause, L, Matthews, ND, Yamaguchi, N. Transitioning to a Hybrid Format: Lessons Learned for Developing Physical Skills, ACAPT Webinar, July 24, 2020.
  • Martinez, C, Tilson, JK. Teaching EBP in a flipped classroom model: a controlled comparison between learning on-campus and online. 8th International Conference of the International Society of EBHC with 9th International Conference for EBHC Teachers and Developers. Taormina, Italy. November 8, 2019.
  • Andersen M, Sebelski CA, Martinez C, Kirages DJ, Vagy J, Tilson JK. Hybrid and Traditional Instruction: A Controlled Comparison of Student Performance in a Clinical Skills Course. October 18, 2020. Online Conference.
  • Andersen M, Havens K, Kirages DJ, Nelsen M, Robertson E, Tilson JK, Sebelski CA. DPT Student Self-Efficacy on Psychomotor Skill Performance: A Comparison of Hybrid and Traditional Learning Models. Educational Leadership Conference. October 20, 2019. Seattle, WA.
  • Tilson JK, Landel R, Andersen M, Dominguez J, Kirages D, Robertson R, Sebelski C, Simpson S, Stevenson J, Teglia V, Aguilar S, Gordon J. Expanding a DPT program to include a hybrid online/on-campus cohort: a case study of shared governance. October 14, 2018. Educational Leadership Conference. Jacksonville, FL.
  • Tilson JK, Gordon J, Andersen M, Dominguez J, Havens K, Hershberg J, Kirages D, Landel R, Robertson E, Simpson M, Stevenson J. Implementing a Hybrid Online/On-Campus DPT Program at a Research-Intensive Institution: A Protocol for Comparing Learning Outcomes with an Existing Residential Program. APTA Combined Sections Meeting. February 24, 2018. New Orleans, LA. (poster)
  • McDonald P, Ruckert E, Barnett J, Straker H, Ekmecki O. Technological Innovation in Online Classrooms: Meeting the Needs of the 21st Century Workforce in Health Professions Education. Bing H (Ed). In: Volume III: Contemporary Perspectives on Technological Innovation, Management, and Policy. IAP Information Age Publishing, Inc, 2017.
  • Catalino, Tricia, Gagnon, Kendra, Johnson, Kristen, Andersen, Michael A, Koszalinski, Alex, Simpson, Michael; Student Success in an Online World: Resiliency During a Pandemic; Live Synchronous Educational Session, Educational Leadership Conference, APTA, October 18, 2020
  • Andersen, Michael A, Vagy, Jared, Kirages, Dan, Nelsen, Monica, Martinez, Clarisa, Sebelski, Chris, Tilson, Julie K; Translation of a Traditional DPT Clinical Course into a Hybrid Online/On-Campus Model, Poster Presentation, California Physical Therapy Association Annual Conference, October 3-4, 2020

Inclusive learning design and health/social justice

  • Matthews ND, Rowley KM, Dusing SC, Krause L, Yamaguchi N, Gordon J. Beyond a Statement of Support: Changing the Culture of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Physical Therapy. Physical Therapy Journal. In press.
  • Matthews ND, Richey JR, Roy D, Winstein CJ. Fostering Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Healthcare and Science Panel Discussion. American Society of Neurorehabilitation Annual Conference, April 8, 2021.
  • Matthews ND, Johnson SD. Equity in Physical Therapy: Leveling the Playing Field. California Physical Therapy Association Student Conclave, March 20, 2021.
  • Behere A, Forteith M, Hyder A, Matthews, ND, Waither K. Antiracism in Global Health Education. Consortium of Universities for Global Health, 12th Annual Conference, March 13, 2021.
  • Matthews ND, Dusing SC, Krause L. Actions Speak Louder than Words: A Division’s Journey Toward Anti-Racism, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. USC Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Week, March 9, 2021.
  • Rowley M, Krause L, Havens K, Leech K, Mikkelsen P. Leaning Into Discomfort: A tiered approach to engaging faculty and staff who identify as white and non-black people of color in exploring anti-racism, equity, diversity, and inclusion. USC Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Week, March 9, 2021.

Educational technology

  • Havens KL, Saulovich NA, Saric KJ. A case report about anatomy applications for a physical therapy hybrid online curriculum. J Med Libr Assoc. 2020;108(2):295-303. doi:10.5195/jmla.2020.825
  • Costello E, Ruckert E, Birkmeier M, Lyons L, Cotton L. To Treat or Not to Treat: The use of computer assisted learning to enhance clinical decision-making and self-efficacy of student physical therapists in the acute care setting. Journal of Physical Therapy Education. 2017; 31:27-36.
  • Ruckert E, McDonald P, Birkmeier M, Walker B, Cotton L, Lyons L, Straker H, Plack M. Using technology to promote active learning and social learning experiences in health professions education. Online Learning. 2014; 18 (4).

Student engagement and learning outcomes

  • Matthews, ND, Brown, C, Martinez, C. Impact of a Simulated Case Conference on Student Physical Therapist Self Efficacy in the Management of Patients with Neurologic Conditions. Poster Presentation, Education Leadership Conference, Bellevue, WA, October 29, 2019.
  • Costello E, Birkmeier M, Leach S, Maring J, Ruckert E. From Scissors and Tape to High Fidelity Sims: Threading Acute Care Competencies. Educational Presentation. Combined Sections Meeting. American Physical Therapy Association. Washington, DC. January 2019.
    Costello E, Ruckert E, Leach S, Maring J. A Lasting Impression: Incorporating Authentic Learning Experiences to Improve Clinic-Related Performance and Self-Efficacy. Poster Presentation. American Physical Therapy Association Education Leadership Conference. Columbus, OH. October 2017.
  • Ruckert E, Plack M, Maring J. A Model for Designing a Geriatrics Course Grounded in Educational Principles and Active Learning Strategies. Journal of Physical Therapy Education. 2014; 28:69-84.

Faculty development best practices

  • Bilyeu, C, Matthews, ND, Niski J, Reilly M. Creating Associated Faculty Development Opportunities: Enhancing Habits of the Head and Heart. Education Leadership Conference, Atlanta, GA, October 24, 2021