Level I Fieldwork Today: A Study of Contexts and Perceptions

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Abstract

The last comprehensive examination of the Level I fieldwork experience was performed 15 years ago (Shalik, 1990) and addressed the different types of settings in which fieldwork occurred; amounts and types of supervision; structure and scheduling of the Level I experiences; and the effects of supervising Level I students on productivity. Although every occupational therapy and occupational therapy assistant student encounters a number of Level I fieldwork opportunities, little is available describing the process and contexts of the Level I fieldwork experience today. This study, which examines 1,002 student reports on Level I fieldwork experiences, finds that Level I fieldwork today occurs in a wide variety of physical disability, pediatric, mental health, and emerging practice settings. Findings also indicate that, whereas most fieldwork educators are occupational therapy practitioners, more fieldwork educators are non–occupational therapists than in the past. Furthermore, although students reported opportunities to practice observation and communication across all settings, practice of other clinical skills was specific to type of settings, and opportunities to practice were limited. Student perceptions about opportunities for experiencing occupation-based practice, observation of theory in practice, and how students value different types of fieldwork experiences are addressed. In addition, this study explores the expansion of Level I fieldwork into emerging practice arenas and how students perceive those experiences.

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