An online community of practice to support evidence-based physiotherapy practice in manual therapy

J Contin Educ Health Prof. 2014 Fall;34(4):215-23. doi: 10.1002/chp.21253.


Introduction: The purpose of this study was to explore how a community of practice promoted the creation and sharing of new knowledge in evidence-based manual therapy using Wenger's constructs of mutual engagement, joint enterprise, and shared repertoire as a theoretical framework.

Methods: We used a qualitative approach to analyze the discussion board contributions of the 19 physiotherapists who participated in the 10-week online continuing education course in evidence-based practice (EBP) in manual therapy. The course was founded on community of practice, constructivism, social, and situated learning principles.

Results: The 1436 postings on 9 active discussion boards revealed that the community of practice was a social learning environment that supported strong participation and mutual engagement. Design features such as consistent facilitation, weekly guiding questions, and collaborative assignments promoted the creation and sharing of knowledge. Participants applied research evidence to the contexts in which they worked through reflective comparison of what they were reading to its applicability in their everyday practice. Participants' shared goals contributed to the common ground established in developing collective knowledge about different study designs, how to answer research questions, and the difficulties of conducting sound research.

Discussion: An online longitudinal community of practice utilized as a continuing education approach to deliver an online course based on constructivist and social learning principles allowed geographically dispersed physiotherapists to be mutually engaged in a joint enterprise in evidence-based manual therapy. Advantages included opportunity for reflection, modeling, and collaboration. Future studies should examine the impact of participation on clinical practice.

Keywords: communities of practice; evidence-based practice; manual therapy; online/computer-based education; physical therapy; profession-other; research training-clinical; theory-social learning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Canada
  • Education, Continuing / methods*
  • Education, Continuing / organization & administration
  • Education, Continuing / standards
  • Evidence-Based Practice / education*
  • Evidence-Based Practice / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination / methods*
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Musculoskeletal Manipulations / education*
  • Musculoskeletal Manipulations / methods
  • Physical Therapists / education*
  • Program Evaluation / methods
  • Qualitative Research
  • Social Media*