Fieldwork practice for learning: Lessons from occupational therapy students and their supervisors

Deshini Naidoo, Jacqueline van Wyk


Background. Fieldwork practice forms a vital part of occupational therapy (OT) education and contributes significantly to competent practice and students’ clinical reasoning. Students’ learning is positively or negatively influenced by their fieldwork experience.
Objective. To explore the views and experiences of final-year OT students, site-based clinicians and university-based academic supervisors to identify strategies that influenced students’ learning during fieldwork practice.
Methods. This descriptive qualitative study used a purposeful sampling technique. Data collection strategies included focus group discussions with clinical and academic supervisors and semistructured interviews with final-year students. Each set of data was analysed according to the research questions. The researcher analysed the data into themes, which were corroborated by a supervisor. Data source and analyst triangulation ensured trustworthiness of the study.
Results. Two themes, i.e. difficulties experienced by students during fieldwork and supervision strategies that they found beneficial for learning, are described. Guidance and mentoring from experienced therapists helped students to link observations from assessments and intervention plans. Observations of treatment sessions, peer learning and practice in the skills laboratories were beneficial for learning, competence and confidence. Guided questions from supervisors to enhance reflexive practice and peer learning strengthened the students’ confidence and ability to give feedback to their peers. The students also benefited from sessions that allowed them the freedom and space to work autonomously.
Conclusion. This study provides insight into the difficulties that students experienced when engaging with fieldwork and offers some strategies that have been found to advance their learning.

Authors' affiliations

Deshini Naidoo, Discipline of Occupational Therapy, School of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

Jacqueline van Wyk, Clinical and Professional Education, Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, School of Clinical Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

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Fieldwork; Supervision; Strategies to improve learning; Occupational therapy; South Africa; Guidance and mentoring; Critical thinking; Clinical problem-solving

Cite this article

African Journal of Health Professions Education 2016;8(1):37-40. DOI:10.7196/AJHPE.2016.v8i1.536

Article History

Date submitted: 2014-10-06
Date published: 2016-03-26

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