Physical therapists’ perspectives of the construct of motor learning, and their motor learning-based practice: a qualitative study

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Introduction: The perceptions and beliefs of physical therapists play an important role in their clinical behavior. These clinician-related aspects may contribute to the knowledge–action gap in the field of motor learning (ML). Accordingly, this study explored how a sample of physical therapists perceive ML in their practice. Methods: A qualitative phenomenological study was conducted. Twelve physical therapists with a wide range of work experience were purposefully selected. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews and analyzed using content analysis methodology. Themes and categories were identified. Results: We identified five key themes: 1) ‘ML within the scope of PT’ showed that participants perceived ML as a fundamental part of the profession; 2) ‘Understanding of ML’ showed that participants had difficulty understanding the field comprehensively; 3) ‘Self-efficacy toward the topic of ML’ revealed that participants had low self-efficacy about their knowledge of the topic; 4) ‘Features of ML implementation’ showed that physical therapists tended to implement ML intuitively; and 5) ‘Barriers to implementation and ways to facilitate it’ showed that lack of knowledge was perceived as a main barrier to implementation. Conclusions: Physical therapists’ perceptions of and experiences with ML showed the complexity of the field and the lack of clarity regarding its theoretical content and clinical applications. There is a need to reinforce knowledge of ML among physical therapists at different levels of professional development and to promote self-efficacy toward its use, possibly by increasing ML knowledge and education while emphasizing its clinical context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1377-1390
Number of pages14
JournalPhysiotherapy Theory and Practice
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We gratefully acknowledge Carmi Nobel and Dafna Kedar for assistance with data collection and data coding. We are extremely grateful to the physical therapists who dedicated their time to participate in the study.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • Knowledge translation
  • motor learning
  • physical therapy
  • qualitative research
  • semi-structured interview

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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