Document Type (Journals)

Original Research


Fieldwork education is the practical application of an occupational therapy education. Level I fieldwork is an important component that introduces students to the clinical setting for basic understanding of client interactions. Quality fieldwork programs in occupational therapy are more difficult to procure than ever before due to critical shortages of placements. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a major impact on all medical professions. The need for remodeling Level I fieldwork education possibilities has significantly increased. This study compares occupational therapy clinical education across three modalities recognized by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) standards: a simulated, virtual environment; faculty-led visits to a single clinical site; and supervision by a fieldwork educator across multiple sites. It compares different instructional modes for occupational therapy fieldwork, with the intent to contribute to the body of evidence-based practice in occupational therapy education, before, during, and after the COVID-19 crisis. A survey was administered to measure three cohorts of students’ perceptions of their clinical experiences, including occupation-based interventions, engagement with clients, the use of evidence-based practice, exposure to assessments and the influence on skilled therapeutic interventions, the use of effective problem solving for clinical application, and confidence levels to design and implement therapeutic interventions. Data collected from all three cohorts indicated that students largely responded favorably to their clinical experiences, regardless of modality, and provided evidence that modifications may be needed in each experience.


Tammy Divens, M.Ed., OTD, OTR/L is the Program Director of the Occupational Therapy Assistant Program and an Associate Teaching Professor at the Pennsylvania State University- Shenango campus. She received her Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree from Concordia University- Wisconsin in 2017. She also has a Masters of Education in Educational Leadership from Concordia University-Portland, and a Bachelor’s of Science in Allied Health for occupational therapy from the Ohio State University. Her research interests are fieldwork, program improvement, substance misuse, mental health, and well-being topics.

Laura Cruz, PhD is an Associate Research Professor for Teaching and Learning Scholarship with the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence at Penn State. She received her PhD from the University of California at Berkeley in 2001. In addition to her faculty positions, she previously served as the director of two centers for teaching and learning and as the editor of four journals in the field. Her publications and presentations focus on systems thinking, pedagogical innovation, organizational development, and emerging forms of scholarship in higher education.

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.