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Erin Casey Phillips, OTD, OTR/L


Innovative teaching methods to address emerging practice needs are critical components of effective occupational therapy education. Experiential learning strategies can enhance skill development and translation of knowledge into OT clinical practice. In addition, skills such as coaching may provide important links to health promotion practices. Thirty-two occupational therapy students took part in an experiential project to connect occupational engagement and health for a community of older adults. A pretest/posttest design was used to evaluate program outcomes in student perceived abilities, and narrative reflection papers provided postexperience qualitative information. The students improved in all 10 areas of abilities self-assessment with mean total scores from pretest (M = 42) improving significantly at posttest (M = 58). Themes from reflection papers indicated a positive response to experiential learning and a desire for more opportunities to prepare for clinical practice, including the use of interprofessional training. The students improved in their abilities to use coaching and health promotion strategies through the use of experiential learning methods. Outcomes suggest that experiential learning opportunities are an effective way to enhance student competencies in coaching, improve readiness for wellness programming, and increase student confidence in application of skills in future clinical practice.