Doctor of Education
Laura Wangsness Willemsen
Positive professional performance as a physical therapist requires a combination of both cognitive and non-cognitive traits. To date, there has been little-to-no literature on how Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) programs engage, refine and enhance students’ non-cognitive traits and abilities throughout a DPT curriculum. This dissertation had five foundational research questions that examined whether there was a statistically significant correlation between Emotional Intelligence (EI) and student success throughout a DPT program. Additionally, it explored how, when and where a DPT program embedded EI constructs in the 8-semester curriculum. The study took place in a private University in the Midwest and subjects included all core faculty and students who matriculated and graduated with the 2019 cohort. Quantitative methodology was used to answer four questions and qualitative support answered the final question. Quantitative data was analyzed using Spearman’s rho, while qualitative was gathered from triangulation of artifacts and long-answer core faculty surveys. There were no statistically significant positive correlations between students’ EI and their success throughout the program (academic, clinical, comprehensive examinations). However, qualitative findings demonstrated that EI constructs were embedded throughout the curriculum and instructional practices. This was done both intentionally and unintentionally through coursework, clinical experience, professional behavior development and advising. It is recommended that the DPT program studied, along with others, consider intentionally embedding opportunities for non-cognitive growth and development throughout the DPT journey from admission to graduation. If non-cognitive factors are the primary reason for positive professional performance, then DPT curriculum and instructional practices should focus more consideration and intent on developing them.