Reflective practice in occupational therapy : a case study of the experience at the University of Liverpool
In the last ten years there have been many changes to health care delivery, and higher
education in preparing students for professional practice. Occupational therapy has
had to meet these demands by being more challenging and evaluative of the care they
deliver. One way this has been addressed is through the inclusion of reflective
thinking and reflective practice into the undergraduate curriculum of occupational
This research looks at how reflective practice has been developed within the Course
curriculum of Occupational Therapy at The University of Liverpool with the aims of
investigating and establishing -
• How the notion of reflective practice has been incorporated into the curriculum
• How students' perceptions of reflective practice have changed over time
• How the changes in curriculum design are related to the values students place
on reflection and reflective practice.
The methodology uses a case study design involving document analysis. Three
sources of data were gathered from: Public Records, Private Papers of students and
Biographical teaching notes of staff.
Several factors have emerged that have implications for future practice both in
occupational therapy and other health science professions. When reflection is not
explicitly taught and/or where reflection is only considered as a discrete part of a
curriculum, students are unable to incorporate reflection into their daily practice.
Students' capacity to develop reflective skills leads to students acquiring reflective
abilities at differing levels and therefore curriculum design needs to provide practical
ways in which students can enrich their reflective practice competencies. To be
reflective a number of cognitive skills need to be taught and developed in order for
reflection to be effective. Students also need to be taught how reflection works in
practice and how their personal reflective abilities impact on the benefit to clients.Recommendations
It is suggested that future curriculum design should embrace a model of education
which encourages opportunities for 'learners' to develop their capacities which are
fundamental to competent reflective practice and the acquisition of knowledge that
should proceed interactively with reflecting about real practical situations. One
possible consideration would be to identify early on in the course the students'
reflective thinking, using a scheme for assessing students' writing and then employ a
. variety of teaching strategies that bring together the material used and found in the
progress of this study. Tutors need to be mindful that the teaching of reflection does
not necessarily require changes in what is taught but instead more emphasis is
needed on how to incorporate thinking skills into a repertoire of knowledge. Tutors
also need to make more explicit the links reflection has with the skills of problem
solving and clinical reasoning so that students can learn to "reflect effectively and
practice reflectively" (Burton, 2000).