Occupational therapists frequently undertake the role of practice educator contributing to the development of the future workforce, however, little is known about how they effectively perform this role. This study aimed to elucidate students' perspectives on what makes an excellent practice educator.Method:
Documentation for 124 Practice Excellence Commendations nominations by Queensland occupational therapy students for Queensland Occupational Therapy Fieldwork Collaborative awards between 2008 and 2011 were analysed. These were based on students' experiences on long block placements (five weeks or more) in their later years of undergraduate or masters' entry study. Written nominations addressing five selection criteria were de-identified and responses to each of these compiled. One independent coder and the two lead authors read the transcripts, identified coding categories and reached consensus regarding emerging themes using standard content and thematic analysis techniques.Results:
Providing the ‘just right’ challenge was the overarching theme that symbolised excellence in practice education from students' perspectives. Three themes emerged that enabled practice educators to provide student support needed to balance the challenges of learning on placement; (i) valuing a reciprocal relationship; (ii) facilitating learning opportunities and experiences; and (iii) encouraging autonomy and independence.Conclusion:
Findings provided insights into student perceptions about how excellent practice educators facilitated their learning while on placement. These insights can be used to inform practice educators who wish to enhance their supervision skills. Future research should focus on how the attributes of practice educators positively influence student learning outcomes.