Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



College of Education and Human Services


Learning Sciences and Human Development

Committee Chair

Julie S. Vargas.


Health care educational programs are challenged to provide efficient and effective instructional strategies to teach students both the foundation knowledge and problem solving skills that they need to provide quality health care services. In the present study, computer-based text passages and quizzes were used to teach physical therapist assistant (PTA) students the component facts and principles needed for the higher level skill of choosing ambulation aids and gait patterns for patients in described clinical scenarios. The research questions were (a) whether learning component gait training skills would result in better ability to choose ambulation aids and gait patterns for patients in clinical scenarios, and (b) whether practicing the component skills to achieve fluency would lead to greater problem solving performance. Periodic application probes were used to test problem solving skill. Learning component subskills did result in better problem solving ability for 7 out of 8 students, and fluency on 3 critical quizzes was positively correlated with higher application test scores. A final problem solving strategy resulted in further learning gains for 5 out of 6 students, but the strategy did not compensate for faulty factual knowledge. Overall, the findings of the study show that learning component facts and principles can lead to better problem solving skill without specific additional instruction. In fact, mastery of the factual knowledge is essential for mastery of a problem solving task. Because effective health care is dependent upon good problem solving skills, these findings suggests that learning will be more efficient if instructional materials contain contingencies to ensure that students master critical foundation skills.