Bone and Joint Institute

Reflective Practice in Physical Therapy: A Scoping Review

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Physical Therapy





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© 2019 American Physical Therapy Association. Background: Many practitioners experience complex, uncertain, and unique clinical practice situations that can be navigated with reflection. Little is known about the theoretical and pragmatic perspectives of reflection in physical therapy. Purpose: The purpose of this paper was to examine the literature on reflection in physical therapy and identify gaps in the literature. Data Source: The Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), PubMed, EMBASE, Scopus, and PsycINFO were used to identify articles. Study Selection: Studies were selected to describe: (1) theoretical concepts related to reflection, (2) examples of reflection, and (3) the use of reflection in clinical or educational contexts. Data Extraction: Authors, year of publication, country of origin, publication type or source, methodology, conceptual approach (including terminology used, definition of terminology used), and practical approach (including theoretical underpinning, context of reflection/reflective practice, and target group) guided the data extraction. Data Synthesis: A total of 46 articles were reviewed spanning from 1992 to 2017, which included research studies, field articles, editorials, and a review article. Theoretical underpinnings of reflection were based on the thoughts of Donald Schön. Written approaches to reflection were most common, and reflection was used to inform education, clinical practice, and professional growth. Limitations: As with any review paper, there is a certain level of interpretation required when collating and interpreting data. Conclusions: Reflection in physical therapy could be advanced by a thorough conceptualization of reflective practice, a broader and deeper pool of research to inform optimal implementation of reflection across the career span from learners to experts, and a clear definition and linkage of reflection to epistemologies of physical therapy practice.


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