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  MSc OT  >  Educational Methods
Educational Methods

Problem-Based Tutorials
are central to the learning process. Students, in small groups, meet the course objectives by exploring a variety of health and professional problems likely to be encountered in practice. The focus is on problem-based learning to gain knowledge, and on clinical reasoning to apply and integrate knowledge within a relevant context. The tutor functions as a facilitator of learning rather than a disseminator of information. Tutorial size may vary from five to eight students. Tutorial group membership is changed each term to maximize interaction among faculty and students. 

Inquiry Seminars are conducted as large group resource sessions. They are designed to provide opportunities to explore and discuss major topics of professional interest and theoretical concepts which are central to the development and practice of the profession. Presentations by guest lecturers, small group activities, large group discussions, and student presentations are commonly used formats to enhance learning. Inquiry seminars serve to promote critical thinking and provide the theoretical perspectives to guide and support the learning process.

Skills Laboratories (Professional Reasoning and Skills (PRS)) provide students with the opportunity to acquire the skills needed to assess and address occupational performance problems of clients of all ages. The sessions complement the health problems encountered in the problem-based tutorials and facilitate the integration of theory and practice. The instructors include the course coordinators and clinical experts drawn from the faculty and the community. Class discussion, demonstration of techniques, practice sessions, community experiences, observation of performance and feedback to students are some of the strategies used to help students develop competence in core occupational therapy skills.

Evidence-based Practice Seminars, Inquiry Course and EBP Project (EBP Courses 747, 748, 749) take place in the second year of the program to focus students’ learning on the competency of Scholarly Practice, which is now a core concept of our professional framework. Again, consistency with our educational conceptual framework is ensured by Course Coordinators through the use of “clinical dilemmas” in EBP 747 and clinical scenarios and problems in EBP 748. Self-directed learning is promoted in all three courses, as students are required to design their own clinical dilemmas, programs for evaluation and topics for their major EBP project in the EBP 749 course.

Professional Preparation (Clinical Education) is an essential component of a student occupational therapist’s education program.  Practica courses provide the opportunity for students to apply occupational therapy knowledge, skills, and professional behaviours in a variety of environments in which occupational therapists provide service.   Clinical education and academic learning are interrelated, which is consistent with the integration of both educational and professional frameworks within our programs.

Opportunities for interprofessional education occur throughout the curriculum in the form of combined learning experiences and/or special events with other groups of students within and beyond the McMaster community. Consistent with our educational framework, students are expected to be self-directed in selecting the learning experiences that best meet their individual learning needs. A ‘menu’ of interprofessional learning experiences is provided to students, the choices included being consistent with our current philosophy about interprofessional education and practice as part of professional preparation and competencies.

Methods of Evaluation

Student performance is evaluated on a regular basis throughout the MSc (OT) Program using a variety of evaluation tools that are consistent with the basic principles of problem-based learning and self-directed learning.

The evaluation process can be formative or summative, and as such, it provides valuable  feedback to students to enhance their learning. Evaluations are also used to assure faculty, students, clients, and society that graduates possess the required knowledge, skills, and professional behaviours to function as competent professionals.  Evaluation presents a challenge for any curriculum. A curriculum founded on the basis of problem-based, self-directed learning lends additional dimensions to this challenge. As no single evaluation method can assess all domains of learning or competence, various methods must be used. The choice of the evaluation tool is based on its educational value (e.g., formative or summative), its measurement properties (e.g., reliability, validity, generalizability), and its feasibility (e.g., time needed, resources required, costs).

Some of the student evaluation tools used in the OT Program are described below:

Tutorial performance of the group as a whole and of each of its members (including the tutor) is evaluated on a regular basis throughout each term. The final student mark is based on knowledge, use of learning resources, group participation and facilitation, clinical reasoning, critical appraisal skills, and evaluation skills (i.e., self-assessment, peer-assessment, and tutor evaluation).

Written exams focused on foundational knowledge and/or clinical reasoning use various formats including multiple choice, short or long answer format. Modified essay questions  (MEQs) are designed to assess aspects of practice reasoning and problem-solving using a paper problem as a stimulus. The MEQ presents the student with progressive amounts of information about a practice problem in a sequence predetermined by the examiner. At successive stages, the student responds to the information and is asked to make and explain his/her decisions.

Essays are used to evaluate knowledge, critical appraisal skills, critical thinking, analysis, and synthesis skills. The essay tests the understanding of principles or relationships, and fosters independent thinking and learning. Furthermore, it is used to develop and evaluate writing skills. Essays are assessed on content, organization, style, and mechanics. A problem write-up which focuses on a particular case scenario/client problem is a variation of the traditional essay.

Direct Observation techniques are used primarily to evaluate technical/behavioural skills. This type of practical examination might be used to evaluate interviewing skills, assessment techniques, and/or use of therapeutic interventions. Direct observation is frequently used in clinical practica as well.

Presentations are also used throughout the Program. A health care professional must be articulate, able to defend an opinion or position, and able to present information and ideas in an organized and clear manner. To help the students develop these skills, individual and group presentations are used as evaluation components in most terms. Poster or podium presentations are used to present results of students' research projects.

Practicum Evaluation The Competency Based Fieldwork Evaluation for OccupationalTherapists (CBFE-OT) (Bossers, et al., 2007) is used to evaluate student performance  during all practicum experiences and guides remedial work. The use of the CBFE-OT which incorporates both visual analogue scale (VAS) and student learning objectives, reinforces the student’s role as an active participant in the process of learning rather than a passive recipient. In the professional preparation setting, the CBFE-OT allows the student to meet the Program objectives and also to pursue individual objectives. CBFE-OT is a document drawn up by the student and negotiated and approved by the practice preceptor or faculty member. It specifies seven essential competencies, what the student will learn, how this will be accomplished, within what time frame, and what specific evaluation criteria will be used for each objective. The CBFE-OT reconciles the "imposed" requirements of the Program with the learner's own personal goals and objectives. It enables the student to individualize his/her own way of achieving personal learning objectives, and to measure the progress towards achieving them. Objective measurement of the attainment of essential competencies through the integration of skills, knowledge and professional  behaviours is also guided by the competencies from the Profile of Occupational Therapists in Canada.