Exploring Students' Experiences in Occupational Therapy Education: A Phenomenological Study of Professional Identity Development

Peter O. Ndaa, Katherine Wimpenny, Rebecca Khanna, Simon Goodman, Ajediran I. Bello

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The existing literature on professional identity enactment and development, subscribes to students' socializing in a learning environment, where they regularly encounter practicing professionals throughout their education period. However, in most countries with less resourced occupational therapists like Ghana, education in occupational therapy is fraught with inadequate number of same professionals to mentor undergraduate occupational therapy students. The students are thus faced with serious dilemma regarding their professional identity which tends to elicit a bleak perception of their chosen career. The present study was therefore envisaged to interpret and analyse the students' lived experiences, with the view to capture the process of constructing and developing professional identity. The study focused on purposively sampled group of nine undergraduate occupational therapy students during their practice placement education, and their learning styles on didactic lectures. A hermeneutic phenomenological approach was adopted for the study. The students were followed up throughout their four-year study program for data collection, using one-to-one semi-structured interviews each year. With reference to the threshold concepts, transcribed interview data were analyzed using interpretative phenomenological procedures. The study established a transformational development of professional identity from the novice stage into graduate professionals, amidst complex interaction of co-constructed themes which included: personal knowing, professional knowing and experiential knowing.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3
Pages (from-to)64-78
Number of pages15
JournalQualitative Report
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International


The study was supported with grants from Lions John Cockayne Memorial Fellowship Trust Fund and The Lyra Taylor Fund/ Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW). We would also like to acknowledge the support of Dr Rosa Gualano, Monash Ageing Research Centre Manager (MONARC) and Ms Rhoda Lai, Research Assistant at the Monash Ageing Research Centre (MONARC) for their review.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2021: Peter O. Ndaa, Katherine Wimpenny, Simon Goodman, Rebecca Khanna, Ajediran I. Bello, and Nova Southeastern University.


  • Learning environment
  • Learning experience
  • Occupational therapy
  • Phenomenology
  • Professional identity
  • Professional socialization
  • Threshold concepts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Education


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