Document Type (Journals)

Original Research


Experiential learning is not without its challenges. Following a pilot examination of student feedback on practical and learning difficulties they encountered, students’ experiences of their occupation-focused, service-learning module was systematically explored using a case study design. Concurrent mixed methods were employed to collect data with emphasis on qualitative data gathered through weekly, guided reflective journals and online forums. Students were also surveyed pre and post module to validate data on their experiences regarding their concerns, perceived learning, and evaluation of the module. Four themes were identified. These related to students’ increased understanding of the use and value of occupation; their identification of their own skills development primarily in relation to interacting with service-learning partners; their consciousness of power differentials between services, students, and their service-learning partners; and the importance of their contribution being considered worthwhile and valued. Despite wanting to contribute to the lives of others, students perceived they developed least in relation to civic responsibility. Their greatest gains were perceived to be on a personal and attitudinal level. They realized that commitment, reliability, and affording partners time was as important as employing their college-learned skills. Similarly, where students’ concerns had been self-focused, they were replaced with concerns for their partners’ well-being as time passed. Contributing to online forums was overwhelmingly disliked by students. However, it is recommended that the use of virtual platforms is explored further to potentially enhance the establishment of collaborative relationships with services and to create a ‘just right’ challenge that optimizes opportunities for occupation-focused learning.


Sarah Quinn, MPhil, BScOT is an assistant professor in the Discipline of Occupational Therapy in Trinity College Dublin. She has a keen interest in occupational science, justice and the social / civic development of students. She engages in allied teaching and research particularly in relation to inequality, feminism, motherhood and service-learning.

Dr. Katie Cremin,PhD, MSc, BScOT is an assistant professor in the Discipline of Occupational Therapy in Trinity College Dublin. She has a particular interest in occupational therapy research and practice in the area of children/adolescents and ASD, as well as concern for the student-experience and welfare and engagement with service-learning.

Declaration of Interest

The authors report no declarations of interest.

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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.