Date of Award

Spring 5-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ded)


Professional Studies in Education

First Advisor

Kelli R. Paquette, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Edel Reilly, D.Ed.

Third Advisor

Pamela O'Harra, D.Ed.


The purpose of this study was to examine the use of humanities in a physical therapy program committed to and successful with integrating the humanities into its curriculum. Research questions sought to explore methods and content areas in which humanities were being integrated, attitudes and perceptions of faculty and students regarding the value of humanities, assessment and expected outcomes of humanities integration, supportive departmental and institutional factors, and challenges to successful curricular integration of humanities. This research used a qualitative single case study approach.

The study found that humanities-related activities were integrated into all major content areas. Narrative reflection, guest speakers, experiential learning, film, literature, fine arts, and publication of an online humanities-based journal were the primary methods by which the program incorporates humanities. Pedagogical approaches included repeated exposure, being explicit about the benefits of humanities, making activities relevant, keeping it simple, and being sensitive to time constraints. Perceived benefits and outcomes included attention to patient-centered care, development of soft skills, development of reflective abilities, formation of professional identity, cultivation of well-rounded clinicians, and creation of transformative experiences. Assessment was primarily through analysis of narrative writing using the Gibbs Reflective Cycle. All subjects agreed that long-term studies are needed to show the true impact of humanities on clinical practice.

Identified support for humanities integration included institutional commitment to its liberal arts tradition, campus culture and atmosphere, resources, and interdisciplinary collaboration. At the departmental level, faculty and student selection, program director support, and faculty mentors were all identified as important. Challenges to humanity integration were identified as lack of faculty and student buy-in, limited faculty knowledge regarding use of humanities, student stress and time constraints, limited room in the curriculum, and devaluing of the humanities by the physical therapy profession.

This study raises awareness and understanding of humanities integration in physical therapy education and serves as a model for other physical therapy programs looking to increase humanities presence in their curriculum.