Document Type (Journals)

Original Research


The transition from expert occupational therapy practice to academic educator is stressful and complex, involving the development of a new professional identity. In 2020-21 COVID-19 created a new challenge for recently employed academics, who were in this transition process. This study utilized participatory research to explore the impact of COVID-19 on six new occupational therapy lecturers who were employed immediately before and during the pandemic. The participatory research approach simultaneously engaged participants in research processes and aimed to promote researcher development. Three focus groups were conducted to explore participants experiences before, during and after COVID-19 restrictions. Focus groups transcripts were coded and analyzed thematically. Four themes were identified: 1) Discovery 2) Turbulence 3) Survival and 4) Reflections were linked to an overarching analogy. Covid-19 accelerated the transition to teaching as participants discovered effective strategies for teaching online through trial and error, with little available support. The easing of restrictions brought new challenges and anxieties for participants unfamiliar with classroom teaching. The study highlights the complexity of transitioning to academia, and the importance of peer and team support during the first two years. The participatory research process utilized in this study provided an opportunity to reflect back on the transition process while developing researcher skills and experience.


Yvonne Thomas, PhD, MEd, Dip COT is Professor in the School of Occupational Therapy at Otago Polytechnic, New Zealand. Yvonne’s research interests include health professional practice, role emerging practice education, and values in occupational therapy.

Ciara Hensey, BScPsych, PG Cert AppSc &Hlth was employed by the School of Occupational Therapy as a research assistant and contributed to a number of research projects conducted in 2021/22.

Claire Squires, NZROT, BOccTher, PGDipHlthInf, PGDipPH, PGCertHealSc, GDTE is Senior Lecturer, and Team Leader for the Occupational Therapy Programme at Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin. Claire is currently completing a Masters in Occupational Therapy.

Anna Collier, NZROT, BOccTher, PGDipHSc, GDTE is Senior Lecturer, School of Occupational Therapy, Dunedin.

Heidi Cathcart, NZROT, BOccTher, GDTE is a Senior Lecturer for the School of Occupational Therapy, in Hamilton, New Zealand

Lindsay Coup, NZROT, BOccTher, PGCertHSc, GDTE is a Senior Lecturer at School of Occupational Therapy, Dunedin.

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.