Self-assessments skills of occupational therapy students
Increasingly health workers are expected to self-evaluate within the work-place thus raising the question as to how they develop such skills. To date there has been very little research on self-assessment in higher education courses which prepare health professionals for their future careers. The project aimed to investigate occupational therapy students' self-evaluation skills during their professional education and within their first work-place. This practice based investigation was conducted by a member of academic staff in one of the two centres in Scotland offering a BSc in Occupational Therapy course. Data was collected from two different universities offering the course, the study period was the academic years from 1992 to 1996. Four different research tools were used, a content analysis of relevant course documents was carried out; 113 students and 15 academic staff were surveyed using questionnaires, with regard to their understanding and use of self-assessment within the course; self-grading of academic work by three cohorts of students (n=113) was conducted and fifteen graduates and workplace supervisors health care and social work were interviewed through the use of repertory grid interviews. Self-evaluation was emphasised and strongly, linked to professional development, within the course documents of both universities. Students and academic stab identified clinical placements as the area within which, most commonly selfassessment occurred and developed. Students were generally positive with regard to self-assessment being used within the academic components of the course, however, staff were more hesitant. The students consistently under-rated their academic assessments although the majority were within a five-percent range of the experts' marks. One cohort of students did demonstrate an improvement in self-assessment over the three years but similar trends were not detected with the other two cohorts. The repertory grid interviews produced a large number of constructs (507 constructs). It would appear that graduates are able to self-assess accurately within the work place, as there was high agreement between graduates and supervisors regarding the graduates' skills and abilities. In conclusion this investigation indicates that there are discrepancies between course aims and objectives and the reality of self-assessment in the educational context. Although students have the opportunity to practice self-assessment within the academic situation they are limited in their ability to self-assess accurately. They are, however, very confident at self-assessing within the workplace. This confidence may be linked to the fact that as students self-assessments was practised during the clinical component of the course. There is a need for further research with more cohorts being followed throughout the length of their course and also cohorts within other courses.