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South African Journal of Occupational Therapy

On-line version ISSN 2310-3833
Print version ISSN 0038-2337

Abstract

JANSE VAN RENSBURG, Elize  and  DU TOIT, Sanetta H.J.. The value of a rural service learning experience for final year undergraduate occupational therapy students. S. Afr. j. occup. ther. [online]. 2016, vol.46, n.1, pp.9-14. ISSN 2310-3833.  http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/2310-3833/2016/v46n1a4.

INTRODUCTION: Service learning is a form of practice learning employed by occupational therapy training programmes in South Africa, through which the call for universities to engage with communities is also heeded. Rural areas of South Africa have limited access to occupational therapy services, thus service learning engagements with rural communities is a pertinent consideration for occupational therapy training programmes. However, given the high resource demands of rural service learning engagements it was necessary to ascertain the value that such a rural service learning experience has for occupational therapy students. METHOD: A qualitative, descriptive enquiry design was utilised to describe the value of a rural service learning experience for final year undergraduate occupational therapy students. A purposive sample of twelve students who participated in a rural service learning placement in one year was drawn. A nominal group was conducted with nine of these students who were available for participation, and deductive qualitative content analysis of all twelve students' written journals submitted throughout the year was performed. RESULTS: Findings highlighted various ways in which this experience enhanced students' understanding of the dynamics of working in a rural community setting, and provided them with opportunities for personal and professional growth. CONCLUSION: The rural service learning experience was a valuable and transformative learning opportunity for students. Future considerations should include expanding these opportunities and establishing a service learning model based on the insights gained.

Keywords : Occupational therapy; practice learning; rural context; transformative learning; community engagement; community-based education.

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