Supporting occupational therapy students to use theoretical knowledge during placements: What can practice educators do?

Ms Alis Moores1, Dr Karina Dancza2, Dr Merrill Turpin3, Associate Professor Jodie Copley3

1Queensland Health, Townsville Hospital and Health Service, Australia, 2Singapore Institute of Technology, , Singapore, 3University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

Introduction: Applying theory to practice is what makes allied health clinicians professionals rather than technicians. Theory refers to the ideas and concepts used to guide actions, thus forming a foundation for clinical reasoning and decision making. When students are on clinical placement they need to understand and use theory in practice specific to their profession. Without this, they may replicate ‘what’ their practice educator does without understanding the ‘whys’ supporting their practice.

Objective: This scoping review aimed to identify what is known about theory use in occupational therapy practice education.

Method: A search of four electronic data bases (CINAHL, Embase, PubMed and Scopus), identified 19 publications focussing on occupational therapy practice education and theory use. Articles were analysed using the deductive codes of discipline-specific, related and educational theoretical knowledge.

Results: Complexity was evident in the use of theory during placement. Profession specific theory was often not explicitly described, and it was unclear how it could be integrated with theoretical knowledge originating outside of the profession in a way which supports developing clinical reasoning. There was some evidence of educational theory informing the design of teaching methods.

Conclusion: How practice educators support students to understand and use theory which is specific to their discipline is an area in need of further investigation. We propose ways in which educational theory can be used to inform practical strategies and intentional teaching methods to support practice educators to enable students, as novice learners, to use theory in their developing practice.


Alis Moores is a Clinical Education Leader in the Queensland Health State-wide Occupational Therapy Clinical Education Program.  Her role focusses on the development of quality clinical education practices to support students, clinical educators, new graduates and supervisors. She has completed research projects and has published in the areas of new graduate support and the development of models for professional thinking. Alis is a PhD candidate with the University of Queensland completing research which investigates the educational practices used by clinical educators to support students to use theory in their practice during placements.

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