Factors that influence Doctor of Physical Therapy student satisfaction : a qualitative collective case study.

August 2022
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The understanding of student satisfaction as a concept and the methodology by which it is measured varies greatly within higher education research. Studies of student satisfaction specific to the context of a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program in the United States are scarce and often use assessments borrowed from other industries. Of the available research at the time of this study, no study had qualitatively discovered those themes that contribute to student satisfaction in the context of DPT education from the perspective of DPT students. The purpose of this qualitative collective case study was to discover the factors that influence DPT student satisfaction and intention to recommend a United States DPT program. This study utilized focus group interviews of nine currently enrolled DPT students from two different DPT programs within the same health sciences university network. The focus group interviews occurred virtually via the Zoom platform, and themes emerged from a cross-case analysis of the interview transcripts using both inductive and deductive approaches. Situative Expectancy Value Theory (SEVT; Eccles & Wigfield, 2020) framed this study and informed the deductive data analysis approach. Themes from the cross-case analysis revealed sociocognitive factors that influence DPT student satisfaction including learning facilitation, professor quality, connection, and care and support. Additional themes that influenced DPT student satisfaction included access to resources, expectancies for success and subjective task values (as well as subthemes of each), and monetary and subjective task value conceptualizations of cost. Regarding students’ intention to recommend their DPT program, themes of learning outcomes, professor quality, accountability, utility value, monetary cost, clinical internships, and recommendee preference emerged as influential factors. This study also found that increased perceived task value can mediate the negative impact of monetary costs, and learning emerged as the desired outcome of the DPT student’s academic experience. These themes mirrored components of SEVT and supported its use to understand influential factors of DPT Student Satisfaction. As a result, it is recommended that DPT program stakeholders coordinate efforts to foster positive sociocognitive support influences, set clear expectations, and promote perceived value in the DPT students’ experience.