Document Type (Journals)

Original Research


Occupational therapy academic programs are tasked with preparing occupational therapy assistant (OTA) students to develop and use clinical and professional reasoning in practice. A component of this academic education, Level II fieldwork (FW), develops clinical and professional reasoning by allowing students to practice this skill. Although numerous studies have investigated this topic in occupational therapy students, only one small study has previously investigated this in OTA students during Level II FW. Thus, we designed a mixed methods study of OTA students during Level II FW (n = 58) to confirm and expand our knowledge of learning experiences that develop clinical and professional reasoning skills. Six major aspects of Level II FW were identified by participants as contributing to the development of their clinical and professional reasoning skills: “hands-on experience,” “thinking on your feet,” “the value of community-based placements,” “the supervision approach of the FW educator,” “application of evidence-based practice,” and “interprofessional interactions.” Three of these themes were novel as they did not emerge from the previous study. According to most participants their clinical and professional reasoning development was positively impacted when their FW educator chunked information (88.5%), modeled best practice (84.6%), asked questions (84.6%), or engaged in story-telling (84.6%), with the latter two being perceived as most impactful. The study results suggest that the development of clinical and professional reasoning may be highly individualized and driven by what students experience.


Marie-Christine Potvin, PhD, OTR/L is a pediatric occupational therapist with 24 years of clinical experience and 16 years of academic experience. She completed her PhD at McGill University and a post doc at the University of Vermont. She is committed to supporting OT students in developing the competence to be accomplished clinicians.

Jeanne M. Coviello, OTD, OTR/L is currently a co-academic Academic Fieldwork Coordinator at Temple University. During her 32-year career, she has worked in a variety of adult practice settings prior to transitioning to academia. Jeanne completed her post-professional doctoral degree at Thomas Jefferson University.

Eden Rothacker, MSOT, OTR/L; Caitlin Taylor, OTD, OTR/L; and Taryn Pettygrew, OTS were all occupational therapy students of the East Falls and Center City campuses at Thomas Jefferson University during the time of this study. They completed their undergraduate degrees at Thomas Jefferson University, University of Pittsburgh and the College of William & Mary respectively. During their academic programs, they served as graduate research assistants on this study.

Mary Beth Thomas, DOT, OTR/L is currently Academic Fieldwork Coordinator and Assistant Professor at Thomas Jefferson University. She has worked in pediatric hospital and school-based practice with a focus on mental health. Mary Beth completed her post-professional DOT at Temple University and her MSOT at Thomas Jefferson University.

LaRonda Lockhart-Keene, OTD, OTR/L is the program director of Thomas Jefferson University’s Occupational Therapy Assistant Studies Program. After working with the geriatric population, she transitioned to academia 9 years ago. LaRonda completed her doctoral degree at Philadelphia University with an emphasis on education and the transition of clinicians to academicians.

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.