Showcase Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Exploring the presence and teaching of threshold concepts in occupational therapy (#109)

Kelli Nicola-Richmond 1 , Genevieve Pepin 1 , Helen Larkin 1
  1. Deakin University, Geelong, VICTORIA, Australia

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)

Understanding the nature of the transformation from student to health practitioner is of great importance in delivering responsive and adaptable graduates who are ready to work in a complex world. Threshold concepts theory (Meyer & Land, 2003) provides a framework around which university curriculum can be structured to support this transformation. The theory has garnered substantial interest within the higher education environment since its inception in 2003, although its application within health disciplines has been limited. The aim of this study was to identify the threshold concepts of occupational therapy from the perspective of students, clinicians and academics and to explore the relevance of these concepts in an undergraduate curriculum.

The Delphi method was utilised to identify the threshold concepts in occupational therapy. The sample included final year students (N=11), clinicians (N=21) and academics (N=11) from across Victoria, Australia. Three rounds of survey were undertaken. Consensus was considered to have occurred when 70% of participants were in agreement. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics and thematic analysis. Two focus groups of academics from one university, with six participants in each group, explored where within an undergraduate occupational therapy curriculum the identified threshold concepts are taught, and how teaching and learning activities support the acquisition of these threshold concepts within the curriculum. Focus group data were analysed using thematic analysis.

Quantitative results show substantial agreement within and across groups regarding what concepts and capabilities were troublesome, transformative and integrative (key characteristics of a threshold concept) in occupational therapy; with ten threshold concepts identified. The relevance and applicability of the threshold concept theory to occupational therapy, the importance of language and practical experiences in teaching threshold concepts and the observation that threshold concepts may be acquired beyond graduation were key themes emerging from the focus groups.

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)

 The development of graduates who are able to respond and adapt to the complexities of the workplace is highly important in health disciplines. However the work-readiness of occupational therapy graduates has been debated in the Australian context (Fortune, Ryan & Adamson, 2013). The threshold concepts theory is a pedagogy that purports to focus on the concepts and capabilities that are fundamental to a discipline and  may offer a valuable and relevant approach to curriculum design to support the development of high quality, work-ready occupational therapy graduates.