The purpose of this study was to better understand factors related to occupational therapy (OT) educators’ decisions to fail underperforming students and to clarify why educators sometimes fail to fail or pass students despite sub-standard performance. Assessing student competence is an essential part of ensuring the safety of those receiving occupational therapy services and ensuring the integrity of the OT profession. Educators in academic and fieldwork settings are responsible for confirming that students who graduate from their programs are able to demonstrate skills required for entry into the profession. A total of 323 OT academic and fieldwork educators responded to a researcher developed survey. Results were analyzed using descriptive statistics and linear regressions. 82% of OT academic educators and 34% of OT fieldwork educators reported failing a student at one time and results revealed common reasons for both groups. In addition, 60% of OT academic educators and 26% of OT fieldwork educators thought there had been a time when they should have failed an underperforming student but did not. Common reasons for failure to fail included lack of proof, vague procedures, giving students the benefit of the doubt, and decreased confidence in handling a failing situation. Recommendations to minimize failure to fail are discussed.
Beth Cardell, PhD, OTR/L is an Associate Professor (Lecturer) in the Department of Occupational and Recreational Therapies at the University of Utah. She is a Fellow in the Academy of Health Science Educators at the University of Utah and has a clinical practice treating adults with brain injury and cognitive disabilities. Jeanette Koski, OTD, OTR/L has a doctorate in Occupational Therapy from the University of Utah. She is an Assistant Professor (Lecturer) and the academic fieldwork coordinator in the Department of Occupational & Recreational Therapies at University of Utah. Jeanette also serves as the president of the Utah Occupational Therapy Association. Jessica Wahl, MOT, OTR/L received her Master’s in Occupational Therapy from the University of Utah and works as an occupational therapist at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah. Wendi Rock, MOT, OTR/L received her Master’s in Occupational Therapy from the University of Utah and currently provides occupational therapy services for children at an outpatient clinic. Anne Kirby, PhD, OTR/L is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Occupational and Recreational Therapies at the University of Utah.
Declaration of Interest
The authors report no declarations of interest
Cardell, B., Koski, J., Wahl, J., Rock, W., & Kirby, A. (2017). Underperforming Students: Factors and Decision-Making in Occupational Therapy Programs. Journal of Occupational Therapy Education, 1 (3). Retrieved from https://encompass.eku.edu/jote/vol1/iss3/1