Physiotherapy in an International Context

Physiotherapy in an International Context


Ethiopia / United Kingdom


The aim of the project is to enable two groups of physiotherapy students in Ethiopia and the UK to collaboratively explore differences and similarities in Physiotherapy assessment and treatment that may exist between their disparate health cultures. In addition, engagement in online activities and clinical scenario discussions provides an opportunity to foster a greater understanding of Physiotherapy in an international context.

Following the close of the discussion forums all participants are invited to engage in a focus group to explore how participating in the on-line learning project may have altered perspectives of physiotherapy in an international context.

Aims of the project

  • To improve students’ knowledge and understanding of physiotherapy in an international context.
  • To improve students’ knowledge and understanding of the impact of differences in the wider health culture on physiotherapy and physiotherapeutic interventions.
  • To help students learn to communicate with health professional colleagues from other health cultures with greater levels of comfort, satisfaction, confidence and sensitivity.
  • To enhance students’ intercultural awareness and professional collaboration in a global context
  • To enhance students’ digital communicative competence in an academic and professional context.

Sequence of activities

 Stage 1: Icebreakers and introduction

Students from both sites are invited to post introductory and welcome messages in an Open Moodle forum. These messages can be in text or video format to inform others about their physiotherapy experience to date and to showcase an aspect of their educational and local environment. Students are expected to critically respond to posts from international peers to enhance understanding of local differences in physiotherapy and wider health culture.

Stage 2: Clinical scenario discussions

A typical physiotherapy referral, one from the UK and a second from Gondar is presented to each group of students who then engage in asynchronous discussions relating to possible assessment and treatment strategies. Students are asked to support their clinical decision making rationale with evidence and provide appropriate justification. Students are asked to critically reflect on the discussion postings, on the supporting material and perspectives of others involved.

Stage 3: Intercultural Reflection

Following the close of the discussion forums students from each site are invited to engage in a local focus group to explore intercultural perspectives, professional development and learning as a result of participating in the OIL project. Student learning and intercultural development is documented and used to inform future curriculum development strategies.

Nature of Activities

The activities are formative in nature with data from the focus groups being subject for content analysis to explore possible themes.


Eight level 3 students in Coventry University’s BSc in Physiotherapy and eight students in the second year of the MSc in Physiotherapy at Gondar University.


Students testimonials

“It was interesting to get ideas from those practicing in other countries with different teaching and treatment skills, I will certainly be bearing this in mind when I treat my next patients.”

“It has made me more aware of cultural differences and that some patients might have different beliefs about their pain and symptoms and that religion can influence how a patient can respond to treatment so I will be more aware of this in my treatment sessions.”


This project has been supported by the learning technologies team at Coventry University’s Centre for Excellence in Learning Enhancement (CELE).