The realities of practice placement : learning from the experiences of occupational therapy students
This thesis reports on research carried out with student occupational therapists following a period of practice placement education. The research carried out seeks to give a voice to student occupational therapists and to explore their perceptions and expectations of the practice placement experience. Using a qualitative research approach, six focus groups were held with occupational therapy students so that they were able to discuss their practice placement experiences. From these discussions, four key themes emerged: • Supervision and the supervisory relationship • Assessment • Student expectations • The student as a person Findings from the research identified that the so-called 'theory-practice' divide exists in occupational therapy education. When the students undertake their practice placements they move into a completely different learning environment - or 'community of practice' - to that experienced within the university classroom. As a consequence, they have to develop the ability to interact and learn within these very distinct communities. It is also evident from the research that there is a multitude of factors that impinge upon the students' learning and experiences on placement. The research findings clearly indicate that there is a need for change in how occupational v therapy education is provided, particularly in light of the current modernisation agenda for health and social care. Two more key points to come out of the research are that practice placement educators require more guidance in providing a quality learning experience for the students, and that students need more assistance in engaging with the learning experience while on placement. Recommendations from the study include increased collaboration between the University and practice placements; a redesign of the curriculum to embrace the practice placement element; more effective use of the skills of both practice placement educators and placement tutors; and greater consideration of the whole learning experience from the students' perspective.