Fostering cultural responsiveness in physiotherapy: Curricula survey of Australian and Aotearoa New Zealand physiotherapy programs

Maxine Te, Felicity Blackstock, Lucy Chipchase

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Developing cultural responsiveness among physiotherapists is considered essential to promote quality and equity in healthcare provision for our culturally diverse populations. The aim of this study was to evaluate how entry-level physiotherapy programs in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand (NZ) design curricula to foster the development of cultural responsiveness in physiotherapy students. Further, the challenges of integrating educational content and approaches, and the perceptions of the effectiveness of these curricula were also explored. Methods: A cross-sectional telephone survey with closed and open-ended questions, was conducted with 18 participants representing 24 entry-level physiotherapy programs (82% of all programs) in Australia and NZ between May and September 2017. Data were analysed descriptively in the form of frequencies, percentages or ratios as appropriate. Open-ended responses were thematically analysed. Results: Results suggest variability in the structure, and teaching and assessment methods used across all programs. The majority of programs appeared to rely on didactic teaching methods, along with knowledge based and implicit assessment methods. The main challenges reported were that cultural responsiveness was thought to be perceived by academic staff as unimportant and that the curriculum was perceived to be 'overcrowded'. Participants also felt there was room for improvement despite perceiving the curriculum to be effective at fostering cultural responsiveness. Conclusion: Results provide insight into the educational content and approaches integrated in entry-level physiotherapy curricula in Australia and NZ, and suggest opportunities for further research and development to foster cultural responsiveness among physiotherapy students.

Original languageEnglish
Article number326
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Medical Education
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated


  • Cultural responsiveness
  • Curriculum
  • Entry-level education
  • Physiotherapy


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