The purpose of this study was to identify the continuing professional education
practices and needs of occupational therapists currently working in Minnesota schools.
Descriptive research using a survey was used to discover knowledge areas important to
school-based practice and the preferred methods of delivery of continuous professional
learning both in and outside of the school or district setting.
After rating 19 identified knowledge areas for their importance to current practice,
OTs rated their exposure to the areas in their pre-service coursework and fieldwork.
Although the vast majority of school-based OTs reported exposure to pediatric related
coursework, more than half reported no coursework in the school-based practice areas,
indicating a lack of preparation by their pre-service program for practice in schools. As
generalist preparation is the goal of pre-preparation programs, an expectation of vastly
improved school-based preparation appears improbable.
Preferences for delivery of CPE, reported by the responding OTs, included
regularly scheduled professional conversations with OTs in the same school or district and formal workshops of 1-3 days in any location. Barriers included cost of continuing
education courses and distance to quality professional education for school-based OTs.
Time and structure for professional conversations within a school or district also was
viewed as supportive of school-based OTs in their professional learning.
School-based practice is one of the largest practice areas for occupational
therapists. Lack of pre-service preparation and a structure for obtaining the knowledge
and skills needed for practice in schools suggests practice and policy changes to facilitate improved preparation. Uniform standards for practice in schools, increased support in
practice (caseload and workload), access to relevant continuing professional education
delivered by methods specifically designed for school-based OTs are implications of this
study. Further research is recommended to confirm knowledge and skill areas for a larger
group of school-based OTs, to update changing practice parameters, and to measure the
impact of continuing education.
Keywords: Occupational therapists in school-based practice, pre-service
preparation for occupational therapists, professional development practices for
occupational therapists, continuing professional development, school-based occupational therapy.
University of Minnesota Ed.D. dissertation. January 2012. Major: Educational Policy and Administration. Advisor: Jennifer York-Barr, PhD. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 158 pages, appendices A-P.
Good, Connie Joy.
Continuing Professional development of occupational therapists in school-based practice: survey of content and learning needs..
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