Dawn Brown

Dawn Brown

There’s no such thing as simply memorizing content to get by in Dawn Brown’s physical therapy classes.

Once students learn the material, they are then expected to apply it to real-life scenarios they may face when they see patients in the future.

Brown, a clinical assistant professor and director of clinical education for NIU’s College of Health and Human Sciences, uses a team-based learning approach to help Huskies learn to be successful practitioners.

“I believe that TBL strategies shift the focus from basic remembering of central course concepts to a focus on course preparedness, application, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills while working in teams,” she said. “Students realize that to be successful in my courses, you have to be prepared for each class, be engaged, and expect meaningful and healthy debates on a variety of course topics.”

While the approach provides additional layers of learning for students, it helps prepare them for future successes in the field, she says.

Brown came to NIU in 2016 after nearly 17 years as a clinic director in a private physical therapy practice. As the site coordinator of clinic education there, she mentored students during their clinical experiences. That sparked her interest in academics.

Now, she is teaching her valuable expertise, and seeing her students succeed.

“Higher education as it relates to physical therapy is about putting knowledge into practice,” she said. “Within the DPT Program, students are progressed through each stage of Bloom's taxonomy, ending with the ability to creatively apply knowledge for optimal patient management.

“Initially, students may not understand the process of higher-level learning expected in a doctoral program, but when applied to patient care within the NIU PT Clinic, the process becomes clearer and students realize that it was worth the blood, sweat, and tears."

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