instructional practices, clinical education, problem solving, athletic training, expert-novice


This study sought to understand effective and ineffective instructional practices in clinical settings and to identify problem-solving strategies used by students and instructors. Three research questions were addressed: where in the undergraduate athletic training education program do students learn, or fail to learn, particular skills; "what instructional methods are of most worth" in teaching these skills, as perceived by the students; and what are the problem-solving strategies used by novice, experienced non-expert, and expert athletic trainers when confronted with novel situations. The subjects were nine students ("novices") and ten Approved Clinical Instructors (ACI's) from three programs in the Southeast United States. Five ACI's were categorized as "experienced non-experts" and five as "experts". All subjects were videotaped while performing various tasks. Each subject was required to think-aloud while they performed typical tasks expected of an entry-level certified athletic trainer, as designated by the NATA Education Council. Subjects then performed a stimulated-recall session, with analysis adapted from Ericsson and Simon (1993). The main findings of this study supported the well-respected teaching notion of "first teach them, then show them, then have them do it". Most concepts were first taught via lecture in the classroom; however, participants believed the "method of most worth" to be hands-on strategies displayed in clinical settings and labs. This study confirmed and disconfirmed aspects of prior research on problem solving. Experts: offered the most verbal comments, used their self-talk to stay on task, displayed intimate rapport with the models, and used various problem-solving strategies based upon the task at hand. Experienced non-experts: tended to drift in their verbal comments, felt the need to justify their answers, spoke mostly with verbal commands, and used several problem solving strategies. Novices: provided the fewest verbal comments, apologized throughout their sessions, often found the problem statement to be the problem itself, and used basic problem solving strategies. Demographics revealed that close relationships, balanced with manageable ACI's and clinical sites, created the most successful programs. Based on the findings of this study, future research must focus on how to best design the curriculum to take advantage of these "methods of most worth".


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Graduation Date





Boote, David


Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


College of Education


Educational Studies

Degree Program

Curriculum and Instruction








Release Date

December 2004

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)