Growing occupation-centred therapists for the future: Understanding student experiences of learning about occupation and its place in occupational therapy practice

Aust Occup Ther J. 2022 Apr;69(2):205-213. doi: 10.1111/1440-1630.12784. Epub 2021 Dec 28.


Introduction: Occupational therapy entry-level education is integral to how students obtain deep understanding of occupational therapy's core philosophy of occupation and its place in practice. However, there is a lack of research that explores occupation-centred education from the perspectives of students. Therefore, this study aimed to identify Australian entry-level occupational therapy students' experiences of learning about occupation, and its place in practice.

Methods: A qualitative descriptive design was adopted. Overall, 20 students participated in four focus groups lasting between 45 and 75 min. Data were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Transcripts were analysed in two phases, using reflexive thematic analysis.

Findings: There were three themes that encapsulated what helped students to better understand occupation and its place in practice: (1) making occupation real; (2) relating occupation to me; and (3) theory as a focussing lens. There was also a range of pedagogical strategies that helped students to better understand occupation: using active and interactive teaching and learning strategies. One additional theme indicated a challenge to helping the students understand occupation and its place practice: when practice education settings were not centred on occupation.

Conclusion: Learning about occupation and occupation-centred practice may be facilitated by using practice examples, encouraging students to think about occupation in their own lives, teaching and applying occupation-centred theory, and employing interactive learning and teaching strategies. Student learning in practice settings where occupational therapy is centred on occupation is imperative. Further exploration of students' perspectives of learning about occupation across multiple occupational therapy programmes is warranted.

Keywords: occupation-centred practice; occupational therapy; occupational therapy education; qualitative description; reflexive thematic analysis; students.

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Humans
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Occupational Therapy* / education
  • Occupations
  • Qualitative Research
  • Students