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, 19 (1), 379

Physiotherapy Students' DiSC Behaviour Styles Can Be Used to Predict the Likelihood of Success in Clinical Placements


Physiotherapy Students' DiSC Behaviour Styles Can Be Used to Predict the Likelihood of Success in Clinical Placements

Nikki Milne et al. BMC Med Educ.


Background: Behaviour can be defined as the internally coordinated responses (actions or inactions) of whole living organisms (individuals or groups) to internal and/or external stimuli, excluding responses more easily understood as developmental changes. Unlike personality traits, that are thought to be biologically consistent, behaviour, through the application of cognition and reasoning is open to change across time and circumstance, although most humans will display preferred ways of behaving. The objective of this study was to: i) identify the behaviour styles of physiotherapy students and investigate if there is a relationship (predictive or otherwise) between students' unique behaviour patterns and their clinical placement grades and; ii) examine if this relationship differs when student's in a Master's level program as well as student's in a Bachelor's level program are explored separately.

Methods: This cross-sectional study with 132 (F = 78, M = 54) physiotherapy students was conducted across two Australian university settings. Measures included Everything DiSC Workplace profile, Assessment of Physiotherapy Practice (APP).

Results: Physiotherapy students (n = 133) profiled the following ways: Dominance (D) style n = 20 (15%), Influence (i) style n = 33 (25%), Steadiness (S) style n = 36 (27%) and Conscientiousness (C) n = 44 (33%). Students with the individual DiSC styles of i and Conscientiousness / Steadiness (CS) were in the lowest APP quartile for clinical grades and the D style was in the highest quartile. Binary logistic regressions revealed students with an i DiSC style had 3.96 times higher odds, and students with a CS DiSC style had 4.34 times higher odds, of failing a clinical placement. When explored independently, the same trend remained for Master's level students. Bachelor's level students with DiSC styles of S and C had failed placements, however these styles were not significantly associated with failure (DiSC S Style: Exp(B) 1.667, p = 0.713 (CI: 0.109 to 25.433), DiSC C Style: Exp(B) 11.00, p = 0.097 (CI: 0.646 to 187.166)).

Conclusion: Physiotherapy students with DiSC styles i and CS appear to be more likely to fail physiotherapy clinical placements. Further research with larger undergraduate samples is required to establish if relations differ for undergraduate versus postgraduate students.

Keywords: Assessment; Behaviour; Clinical education; DiSC styles; Physiotherapy.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have no competing interests or conflicts to declare other than one of the lead investigators (CL) being employed through Queensland Health who partially funded this study.


Fig. 1
Fig. 1
Flow of participants through the study
Fig. 2
Fig. 2
DiSC styles and priorities driving behaviour with 2-dimensional scales
Fig. 3
Fig. 3
Average APP Total Scores according to individual DiSC Styles for the Total Group

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