Introducing the new Canadian Guidelines for Fieldwork Education in Occupational Therapy
Why new national guidelines?
As announced by CAOT last winter, the Fieldwork Education Site Approval Process (FESAP) will be phased out in December 2003. CAOT will be transferring this responsibility to each Canadian occupational therapy university program. The Association will still oversee this process through its Academic Credentialing Council when accrediting occupational therapy university programs every five to seven years.
To adjust to current shifts in the occupational therapy practice context, the University Fieldwork Coordinators Committee (UFCC) of the Association of Canadian Occupational Therapy University Programs (ACOTUP) have reviewed the overall fieldwork site approval process, and have consequently developed the Canadian Guidelines for Fieldwork Education in Occupational Therapy (CGFEOT).
How were the new guidelines developed?
The CGFEOT were developed from a visioning exercise that resulted in an updated image of an ideal fieldwork experience. Through a consensus-based process, UFCC then developed the guidelines in three phases in which fieldwork education partners from across Canada have been consulted; for example, occupational therapists, discipline leaders, university faculty, students and professional associations. The University Fieldwork Coordinators Committee aimed at developing efficient, useful and user-friendly guidelines for those involved in fieldwork education.
What are the main objectives of the new guidelines?
The main goal was to create a vision to promote excellence in fieldwork education. The University Fieldwork Coordinators Committee also developed the guidelines to help both university fieldwork coordinators and students in determining the most suitable experience for students to achieve the expected level of competencies. The CGFEOT should facilitate communication and feedback between universities and sites for enhanced partnership and support. It should also allow for a review of fieldwork education programs at regular intervals. Finally, it will allow university occupational therapy programs to fulfill CAOT requirements for academic accreditation.
What is the content of the new guidelines?
The guidelines are divided into three sections that describe the principles guiding the fieldwork experience, the responsibilities of each fieldwork partner (mainly students, fieldwork educators and university fieldwork coordinators) and the quality improvement process.
For example, the guiding principles state that a fieldwork experience should be mutually beneficial, collaborative, positive and satisfying. Teaching methods and learning styles, in which students take an active role, are self-directed and assume responsibility for their learning, should also be considered.
The section on responsibilities includes a list of expected knowledge, processes, skills, behaviours, actions and commitments of each partner. This list is a partnership reminder for students, fieldwork educators and university fieldwork coordinators.
The third section describes the quality improvement process, which will be discussed next.
How will quality improvement be achieved in fieldwork education?
The University Fieldwork Coordinators Committee, through its consensus-based process, has selected two methods to evaluate university and on-site fieldwork education programs.
First, the Fieldwork Site Profile (FS-PRO) form will provide information updates about the site’s fieldwork education programs, and useful information for placement selection and preparation. Information such as site and contact information, characteristics of occupational therapy services, learning opportunities and resources, administrative resources, amenities available to students, site requirements for students and messages to students will be collected. The FS-PRO should be updated on a regular basis.
The second method, already in use in most universities, will be the students’ written evaluation of the placement. The students’ comments, collected and summarized will be discussed with sites at a minimum of every five years. In addition, the university fieldwork coordinator and the site representative will share feedback, reflect and set goals to improve both the university and the on-site fieldwork education program in a realistic timeframe.
How and when will the new guidelines and quality improvement methods be introduced and implemented?
During the 2003-2004 academic year, the guidelines will be introduced to sites for fieldwork educators and site representatives to familiarize themselves with the guiding principles and the partners’ responsibilities. However, the FS-PRO will only be implemented in sites that have not been approved under the former CAOT process. FESAP-approved sites will be submitted to the FS-PRO when their CAOT approval expires.
As part of the implementation of the guidelines, UFCC/ACOTUP will ask for feedback that will be used when reviewing the CGFEOT in late 2004, and then every five years. By doing so, UFCC aims at adapting the guidelines to emerging needs with its partners, and to new contexts in fieldwork education and occupational therapy practice.
For questions or comments, please contact your affiliated university fieldwork coordinator. Thank you for your ongoing support.
Prepared on behalf of UFCC by Jean Pascal Beaudoin (University of Ottawa), Sheila Banks (Dalhousie University) and Bonny Jung (McMaster University).
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