From motor learning theory to practice: A scoping review of conceptual frameworks for applying knowledge in motor learning to physical therapist practice

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Background. The importance of motor learning knowledge for physical therapist practice is well known; however, its application is lacking. Conceptual frameworks that place motor learning knowledge within a clinical context are a potential mediator to overcome this gap. Purpose. This study aimed to conduct a scoping review of the literature to identify and describe the content of such conceptual frameworks in physical therapy/rehabilitation, including the approaches taken in their development and the "elements" or building blocks of motor learning-based interventions within each conceptual framework. Data Sources. The data sources used were PubMed, CINAHL, and PsychInfo databases. Study Selection. Articles that were selected had a primary focus on motor learning and its application in physical therapy/rehabilitation and were published between 2000 and 2017. Data Extraction. Twelve of 62 relevant articles met the inclusion criteria. Data Synthesis. Papers attempted to translate theoretical knowledge into a coherent, clinically accessible conceptual framework via 3 main approaches: synthesizing selected motor learning elements into original new conceptual frameworks, mapping motor learning elements in current clinical practices, and assembling selected motor learning elements. The elements of motor learning that were common across papers included theoretical concepts (such as "meaningful goal setting" and "active involvement"); practice variables (including the type, frequency, and timing of feedback; the focus of instructions; task breakdown; and the amount, variability, and order of practice); and intervention strategies (task specific and mental practice). Psychological aspects related to self-efficacy and motivation were also considered integral. Limitations. Papers published before the year 2000 were excluded. Conclusion. The scoping review revealed that the presentation of motor learning elements in a coherent framework encompassed very diverse approaches and used different categorization systems. In addition, to fully grasp the complexity of clinical practice, motor learning should be coupled with other fields of knowledge.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1628-1643
Number of pages16
JournalPhysical Therapy
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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