Scholarship of Teaching & Learning Projects 2016/17

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INSTEP – INternationalising STudent Education in Physiotherapy

Deborah O'Connor

The INSTEP project is a collaborative, student-centred International project between MMU and Turku University of Applied Sciences that aims to enrich Physiotherapy curricula by providing an international element. The project has developed a joint teaching activity, which brings students from both universities together to consider how physiotherapists in the two countries approach treatment for patients with Parkinson’s disease.

The video below is a recording of a June 2017 seminar about the project:

Download PowerPoint presentation from the seminar

How did the project get started?

The partner universities are all members of the Consortium of Applied Research and Professional Education, otherwise known as the CARPE network. This network holds biennial conferences for members. In 2013, the conference was held in Manchester, and various contributors showed an interest in joint teaching across the network. At the 2015 conference in Turku, a meeting was held to discuss how this might happen, and a follow-up contact between the Marjut Putkinen, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Turku University of Applied Sciences and Claire Hamshire, now Head of Education in the Faculty of Health, Psychology and Social Care at Manchester Metropolitan University led to a planning visit to Turku in 2016.

What did staff do?

Colleagues from the physiotherapy departments in TUAS and Manchester Met identified overlap in their curricula and a time in the year when their second year students would be working on the same topics. They then developed some online resources and structured activities on the topic of Parkinson’s disease. Twelve students from TUAS and 12 from Manchester Met were recruited to participate in the activities, which took place over two weeks in December 2016.

What did students do?

The students were divided into three groups of eight: four from each country in each group. They met in online classrooms and discussed and shared resources, and produced their own outputs in each group

What did students think about it?

When interviewed after the project, students highlighted three main areas where they felt they had benefited: professional identity, cultural competence and joining and working in a professional community. They also suggested ways to improve the activity, such as having some clearer tasks, and improving the reliability of technology, but all said they would recommend it to other students, and all of them wanted to share in presenting the work at conferences and seminars.

“I did get a lot out of it and I think … when we live in such a multicultural diverse society and that the population, the service users we’re gonna be seeing, I think being able to improve in our communication skills where there’s language barrier… but also having an appreciation of other cultures can only be a positive thing”

“it was just interesting seeing or listening to the way that the Finnish students thought objectively about the case…it definitely complemented my learning”

Team members:

Deborah O’Connor, MMU

Deborah O’Connor is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Health Professions (Manchester Metropolitan University) and a Physiotherapist with over twenty years of clinical experience working with clients with neurological conditions. Deborah joined MMU, initially as a Lecturer Practitioner in 2007 and then as a full time lecturer in 2009. Deborah has a specialist interest in the area of technology enhanced learning and International collaboration.

Esa Bärlund, TUAS

Esa joined the Faculty of Health and Wellbeing (Turku University of Applied Sciences, Finland) in 2015 as a full-time lecturer in Physiotherapy. Previously he worked for 15 years as PT lecturer in applied university. Esa has clinical expertise in the field of neurological rehabilitation and physiotherapy. Also, he is member of the Finnish ICF (International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health, WHO) educator network. Additionally, Esa has enjoyed being a national GAS (Goal Attainment Scaling) educator since 2011.

Ursula Hyrkkänen

Claire Hamshire

Claire Hamshire is Head of Education in the Faculty of Health, Psychology and Social Care at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her research interests include student engagement and learning transitions; she was awarded a Higher Education Academy National Teaching Fellowship in 2012 and became a Principal Fellow of the HEA in January 2014. A summary of her publications is available on the RHISC website at:

Rachel Forsyth

Rachel is the Associate Head of the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at Manchester Metropolitan University. She has a background in open and distance learning and has helped to develop the CARPE summer school to support joint teaching. Her research interests are focused on cultural change in higher education and assessment. Recent publications are listed here