Enhancing professional identity of first-year occupational therapy students with the community-academia student tutoring program

Miri Tal-Saban*, Shahar Zaguri-Vittenberg, Naomi Weintraub

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Delayed professional identity of occupational therapists inhibits successful transition from student to professional. One of the objectives of development of the Community–Academia Student Tutoring (CAST) program is to encourage professional identity formation among first-year undergraduate occupational therapy students. It focuses on developing competence in communication and professional knowledge through a learning-community setting while interacting with individuals with disabilities, thus enhancing students’ self-reflection abilities. Methods: Mixed-method design assessing change before and after participation among 193 students, in competence components essential for professional identity, and factors supporting its formation. Open-ended questions assessed the students’ perceived contribution of the CAST program. Results: Significantly higher competence in knowledge about people with disabilities and relating to them; increased sense of belonging to a learning community and self-reflection abilities compared to before. Relationship with a person with disability and belonging to a learning community predicted 25.4% of the variance in perceptions of program contribution. Central in the students’ experience were development of self-reflection abilities and interpersonal relationship skills, and learning occupational-therapy concepts through meeting people with disabilities. Conclusions: First-hand relationships with people with disability and self-reflection in a structured learning-community setting, may help develop first-year students’ communication skills and their professional identity as occupational therapists.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)106-113
Number of pages8
JournalBritish Journal of Occupational Therapy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2024

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  • Professional identity
  • communication skills
  • community service learning
  • practice education


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