Document Type (Journals)

Original Research


Throughout the development of an individual, their identity, or how they see themselves, frequently changes. An important part of identity formation in adolescents is the development of professional identity, which is how they perceive themselves in a professional context. The establishment of a strong professional identity has been linked to life satisfaction, psychological well-being and success in one’s chosen career. The aim of this study was to identify the extent of professional identity development in second year undergraduate occupational therapy students. As part of an assessment task, students were asked to describe why they chose occupational therapy, how they saw themselves as occupational therapists, and to describe their role models. A thematic analysis of consenting students’ (n=59) responses was performed and each student ranked based on the strength of their professional identity. The results indicated that the stage of professional identity development of second year occupational therapy students varied considerably, despite them being at the same stage of their program. A quarter of students had advanced professional identity, while almost two-thirds were still developing. Students also provided detailed insights regarding the factors influencing their professional identity. Students with strong, positive influences regarding their choice to study occupational therapy were likely to have strong role models. Given its impact on well-being and career success, it is essential to identify students who may be at risk of poor professional identity. The methods developed here could be used to identify such students and to evaluate the success of educational interventions aimed at them.


Harrison Gray, BSc (Hons) recently completed studies in the School of Biomedical Sciences (SBMS) at the University of Queensland (UQ). His research focused on identifying factors influencing professional identity among allied health undergraduate students. He is now a science consultant working in private industry.

Kay Colthorpe, PhD, Dip.App.Sc. (Ag), G.Dip.Ag.St., G.Cert.Ed. (HE) leads the Biomedical Education Research Group in SBMS at UQ. Her research focuses on the metacognition of learning, science communication, and inquiry-based classes. She is a highly awarded educator, teaching and coordinating physiology courses for science and allied health science undergraduates.

Dr Hardy Ernst, PhD, BSc, G.Cert.Ed. (HE) is a teaching-focused lecturer in SBMS at UQ. His research interests lie in active learning and student-generated multimedia, and in the development of mobile learning applications in the biomedical sciences. He is the co-president of the Australian & New Zealand Mobile Learning Group.

Louise Ainscough, PhD, BA, BSc (Hons), G.Cert.Ed. (HE) is a teaching-focused lecturer in SBMS at UQ. She has a strong record of research in self-regulated learning, metacognition of learning and student resilience. She teaches physiology and histology across allied health programs at all year levels.

Declaration of Interest

The authors report no declarations of interest.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.