Professional Behaviors

The Mission and Philosophy Statements of the Division of Physical Therapy emphasize development of the knowledge, skills, and behaviors necessary for effective physical therapy practice. Professional behavior is vital to the success of each physical therapy student, the WVU physical therapy program, and the physical therapy profession. Thus, we will use the ten behaviors (generic abilities) identified by clinicians as those abilities that exemplify the profession as a guide throughout the curriculum. To facilitate development of competency in the ten professional behaviors, we will provide formal and informal feedback to each student.

A listing of these ten "generic abilities" can be found below. Please note that these behaviors apply to both the clinic and classroom settings. Professional classroom behaviors, including (but not limited to) being awake, alert, and well prepared for lectures and labs, maintaining composure when discussing examination results, being seated and ready to proceed when class is scheduled to commence, waiting until class is dismissed, avoiding excessive conversation during class, etc. fall within the realm of the generic abilities.

Early in the first semester, each student will complete a generic abilities self-assessment in PT 711: Professional Roles I. The student will then meet with his/her advisor to review the self-assessment. Near the end of the first semester, and then every semester through the rest of the curriculum, the student will meet with his/her advisor to review development of his/her skills in this area.

If necessary, your advisor will work with you to develop plans for improvement. Consistent violation of these criteria is one factor which will be taken into account should a student be brought before the Academic and Professional Standards Committee.

The Use of Generic Abilities in the Professional Curriculum


The Division of Physical Therapy faculty believes that students must develop appropriate professional behaviors in order to successfully apply the knowledge and skills they acquire during the professional program. In order to assist students in developing these behaviors, the faculty has incorporated the ten Generic Abilities developed by Warren May et al [see Definitions attached] into the program.


  1. Each student will self-assess his/her professional behaviors using the Self Assessment form as part of PT 711: Professional Roles 1. The student will review this self-assessment with his/her advisor.
  2. The faculty will give students feedback on their professional behaviors. This may be done formally, via formative or summative course feedback, or informally.
  3. The faculty will communicate this feedback to each student’s advisor using the attached Anecdotal Record form.
  4. Each student will meet with his/her advisor twice each semester [at midterm and at the end of the semester] to review feedback.
  5. If a problem in professional behavior is identified, the faculty advisor will counsel the student regarding plans for improvement. Consistent exceptional behavior (positive or negative) will be taken into account should a student be brought before the Academic and Professional Standards Committee.

Generic Abilities Definitions

Generic abilities are attributes, characteristics or behaviors that are not explicitly part of the profession's core of knowledge and technical skills but are nevertheless required for success in the profession. Ten generic abilities were identified through a study conducted at UW-Madison in 1991-92. The ten abilities and definitions developed are:

  1. Commitment to Learning
    The ability to self-assess, self-correct, and self-direct; to identify needs and sources of learning; and to continually seek new knowledge and understanding.
  2. Interpersonal Skills
    The ability to interact effectively with patients, families, colleagues, other health care professionals, and the community and to deal effectively with cultural and ethnic diversity issues.
  3. Communication Skills
    The ability to communicate effectively (i.e., speaking, body language, reading, writing, listening) for varied audiences and purposes.
  4. Effective Use of Time and Resources
    The ability to obtain the maximum benefit from a minimum investment of time and resources.
  5. Use of Constructive Feedback
    The ability to identify sources of and seek out feedback and to effectively use and provide feedback for improving personal interaction.
  6. Problem-Solving
    The ability to recognize and define problems, analyze data, develop and implement solutions, and evaluate outcomes.
  7. Professionalism
    The ability to exhibit appropriate professional conduct and to represent the profession effectively.
  8. Responsibility
    The ability to fulfill commitments and to be accountable for actions and outcomes.
  9. Critical Thinking
    The ability to question logically; to identify, generate, and evaluate elements of logical argument; to recognize and differentiate facts, illusions, assumptions, and hidden assumptions; and to distinguish the relevant from the irrelevant.
  10. Stress Management
    The ability to identify sources of stress and to develop effective coping behaviors.

Developed by the Physical Therapy Program, University of Wisconsin-Madison May et al. Journal of Physical Therapy Education. 9. 1, Spring 1995.