Document Type (Journals)

Original Research


A primary objective of occupational therapy education is to facilitate development of clinical reasoning skills. These skills are complex and difficult to cultivate in classroom settings, therefore educators often use experiential learning activities to support clinical reasoning development. Most of the literature about experiential learning activities aimed at developing clinical reasoning focuses on activities occurring in-person, with individuals in physical disabilities settings. This research addresses the gap in the literature by evaluating the impact of a group based, psychosocial focused experiential learning activity that occurred virtually and in-person on entry-level occupational therapy students’ perceived clinical reasoning. Students (n=36) completed the Self-Assessment of Clinical Reasoning and Reflection (SACRR) before and after engaging in a six-week experiential learning activity. The mean total score for the SACRR increased after the learning activity (Z=-4.92, p=.00). Mean scores on 25 of 26 subtests increased and the change on 19 of the 26 items was statistically significant. Items about applying theory to practice increased the most, indicating that students’ perceived abilities increased related to applying theory. Additionally, the learning activity occurred on virtual platforms, demonstrating the potential role of virtual platforms in experiential learning for clinical reasoning development. Overall, this study found that an experiential learning activity designed to address psychosocial needs of groups, using in-person and virtual delivery, increased occupational therapy students’ perceived clinical reasoning. Results add to the literature about clinical reasoning development in students by providing evidence for the use of group based, psychosocial focused learning activities delivered virtually and in person.


Molly Bathje, PhD, MS, OTR/L is an assistant professor in the occupational therapy program at DePaul University. She has been an occupational therapist for more than 20 years, with experience in inpatient and outpatient mental health, pediatrics, acute care medicine, long term care and academics. In academics over the past 10 years her research focuses on the scholarship of teaching and learning along with understanding and addressing health disparities. Dr. Bathje was an assistant professor at Rush University at the time of this research.

Kristi Escobar, BASc has a Bachelor of Applied Science in Kinesiology and Exercise Science from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and is currently a Doctor of Occupational Therapy student at Rush University.

Meghan Crisp, MS, OTR/L is an instructor in the Department of Occupational Therapy at Rush University whose teachings focus on psychosocial aspects of occupational therapy, including group dynamics and psychosocial interventions. She is also a clinician at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital.

Catherine Killian, OTD, MEd, OTR/L is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy at Midwestern University. Dr. Killian has more than 30 years of clinical experience as an occupational therapist, in hospital, outpatient, rehabilitation, long term care and home health practice settings. She has also held management positions at several prominent healthcare organizations and worked as an Academic Fieldwork Coordinator at the university level.

Charlotte Royeen, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, FASAHP, FNAP is the dean of the College of Health Sciences at Rush University. She received her Master of Science in Occupational Therapy at Washington University School of Medicine and her Doctor of Philosophy from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Dr. Royeen has received many honors and awards recognizing her for her work in the field of occupational therapy, including the Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lectureship Award.

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.