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 - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

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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