The Doctor of Physical Therapy Program curriculum is designed to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of physical therapy with a focus on its foundation, the human movement system.

The Program in Physical Therapy at Washington University in St. Louis creates a learning environment for the DPT curriculum that promotes the health and equity of students, employees, and members of our community. Surrounded by professionals engaged across the triple aim of education, research, and clinical practice, our students work collaboratively with expert clinicians immersed in the contemporary clinical environment, top researchers who incorporate new discovery in the classroom, and master educators who integrate new knowledge through the best practices in the learning sciences. Our environment is warm, non-competitive, and collegial. We take a learner-centered approach to education that provides active, flexible, and individualized learning opportunities supported through coaching and mentoring and an assessment philosophy that is focused on growth and improvement.

The two year, eight month program engages students in authentic situated learning experiences that involve patients in the academic and clinical settings. In the classroom, students interact with each other, faculty and clinical subjects to develop the knowledge, skills and abilities of the movement system practitioner. Classes also feature case studies and training at off-site clinical locations. Students encounter increasingly difficult cases as they move through the curriculum. Part-time integrated clinical experiences and full-time clinical education begin early and are distributed throughout the curriculum to provide real-world experience and deeper experiential learning.

Throughout the curriculum the learner progresses through four phases of development. Each phase includes all domains of competence and the complete cycle of the master adaptive learner.

Phase 1: Learning as a Professional

The primary purpose of this phase is to introduce students to the learning environment and the profession through examples focused on health and equity. An understanding of learning science principles, the stages and attributes of the master adaptive learner, and the learning environment for the curriculum will prepare the learner for ongoing personal and professional development. The introduction to the profession will place the emphasis on movement and diagnosis within the historical context of physical therapy.

Phase 2: Promoting Health through Movement

The purpose of this phase is the application of movement science and social and environmental system science to human movement and the continued development of the physical therapist as a movement system practitioner. An emphasis is placed on how health is impacted by movement from the societal to molecular levels. The phase emphasizes health and prevention through movement as a primary role for the physical therapist. The learner is prepared for safe entry into the authentic clinical environment.

Phase 3: Optimizing Movement

The purpose of this phase is the application of the movement system and social and environmental system science to patient client management. An emphasis is placed on direct patient care, which includes all levels of prevention and care (primary to tertiary). Health status and its relationship to movement across the lifespan will be organized within the context of the different health systems.

Phase 4: Practicing as a Professional

The purpose of this phase is to prepare the learner for independent practice and licensure, while allowing for flexibility to focus on areas of interest. Learners return after their final clinical experience to complete the full cycle of the master adaptive learner. Reflection on situated learning provides an opportunity for the learner to identify and address areas of improvement, prepare for the licensure examination, and explore areas of interest or future specialization.

View Curriculum Guide for students entering the Program in Physical Therapy prior to 2021