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Case Study OT1004

Case Study - Occupational Therapy, UCC Plus, UCC Career Services

Name: Dr. Eithne Hunt

Title: UCC Occupational Therapy and UCC Plus+ Homework Club Partnership, and UCC Career Services UCC Works Award

Discipline: Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, School of Clinical Therapies



Service learning is one teaching and learning approach used to meet the learning outcomes of the UCC first year Occupational Therapy module OT1004 Becoming a Healthcare Professional. Service learning is defined as ‘a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich learning experiences, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities’ (US National Service-Learning Clearinghouse, 2012). With service learning, both learning and service are emphasised. Embedding civic engagement in the undergraduate curriculum through service-learning: an innovative academic and support services partnership that facilitates the development of graduate attributes and core values; and enhances future employability.

Every first-year Occupational Therapy student volunteers as a Homework Club tutor in two different second-level schools over two semesters, as a requirement of module OT1004 Becoming a Healthcare Professional. This academically and personally challenging but rewarding curricular learning experience forms the basis for the entire module assignment, in which the OT students critically reflect on their development of communication and professional responsibility competencies. Furthermore, the volunteering experience underpins subsequent modules by learning about socio-economic influences on health and participation in daily activities and society; the students’ first formal clinical placement at the end of first year; and about adolescent development in second year.

As a result of this Homework Club tutor experience, our first-year Occupational Therapy students are deeply involved in university life beyond the classroom, directly contributing to society as reflexive, civically engaged citizen leaders. Furthermore, the students’ engagement has a strong wellbeing and social justice orientation, nurturing school students’ achievement of their potential and encouraging them to consider onward progression to third-level, particularly where there is little tradition of progression onto higher education, thus widening participation for the good of all.


Academic Discipline: Occupational Therapy

Module Title: Becoming a Healthcare Professional

Number of Students: 30

Learning Outcomes:

  1. Understand the UCC PLUS+ Homework Club scheme and the role of the UCC PLUS+ Homework Club tutor
  2. Understand the responsibilities of a UCC PLUS+ Homework Club tutor
  3. Understand the Children First Act 2015 and Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children.
  4. Apply models of reflection and differentiate between descriptive and reflective writing styles.
  5. Demonstrate competence in academic writing, including database searching and APA referencing.
  6. Critically evaluate their competence in establishing effective relationships with clients, colleagues and others.
  7. Display a commitment to professional standards of behaviour.

Community Outcomes:

Nurturing school students’ achievement of their potential and encouraging them to consider onward progression to third-level, particularly where there is little tradition of progression onto higher education.


What was the rationale for introducing this module?

According to occupational therapist Gail Fidler (1996), becoming a professional involves learning and personal development beyond the mastery of the profession's body of knowledge and technology. The third and latest edition of the World Federation of Occupational Therapists Revised Minimum Standards for the Education of Occupational Therapists 2016 extends this view even further, articulating a broader view of education than in its previous editions, one that not only looks at technical, clinical and professional skills but enhanced leadership, adaptability and softer skills of communication, political awareness, interpersonal relationships, affective sensitivity and awareness to change; all deemed essential within the 21st Century for advancement of all in knowledge-based occupations.

In 2013, Dr. Eithne Hunt designed a new first-year Occupational Therapy module OT1004 Becoming a Healthcare Professional. Reflecting trends in higher education towards service learning and active citizenship (Bazyk, Glorioso, Gordon, Haines & Percaciante, 2010; Flecky & Gitlow, 2011; Lau, 2016; Maloney & Griffith, 2013; Maloney, Myers & Bazyk, 2014, Parmenter & Thomas, 2015), she incorporated a requirement for her students to independently source and engage in voluntary work and made this the focus of the end of module assignment. In 2016, when changes to GARDA vetting made it more difficult for the Occupational Therapy students to secure volunteering opportunities in a sufficiently timely manner, Eithne approached UCC PLUS+ to seek to formalize a partnership such that all first-year Occupational Therapy students would become Homework Club tutors. UCC PLUS+ Homework Clubs is an award-winning initiative (Best Education Outreach Award in the Irish Education Awards 2019). Partnering with UCC PLUS+ in this way allows the Occupational Therapy students to be “in the community, of the community and for the community”, the vision of President O’ Shea articulated in the UCC Strategic Plan 2017-2022. As a result of this Homework Club tutor experience, first-year Occupational Therapy students are deeply involved in university life beyond the classroom, directly contributing to society as reflexive, civically engaged citizen leaders, identified priorities in UCC’s current Strategic Plan 2017-2022 and Civic Engagement Plan 2017-2022.


The UCC Academic Strategy 2018-2022 similarly recognises the rapid pace of change in the world and the need to prepare our students for uncertain futures. The Connected Curriculum articulated in the Academic Strategy is designed to prepare students for this uncertain future, combining academic with professional, community-based, field-based and interprofessional development learning opportunities.

The service-learning experience is fully integrated into the OT1004 module. Comprehensive training is provided to the Occupational Therapy students by UCC PLUS+ staff prior to commencement of tutoring, during scheduled OT1004 class time. Transport is provided from UCC to the schools involved and back again to UCC after the Homework Club finishes. The UCC PLUS+ Homework Club Senior Tutor provides on-site support in real time at the schools and ongoing off-site support is available from UCC PLUS+ Homework Club Coordinator and Dr. Eithne Hunt. The recording of weekly reflective journal entries using Rolfe’s questions (what? so what? now what?) is encouraged. The mandatory end of OT1004 module assessment requires the students to critically reflect on their personal and professional development with reference to their service-learning experience.


How has this practice helped the development of 'graduate attributes' in your students?

This partnership evidences “scholarly teaching, which connects student learning experiences with the development of core values and attributes” (UCC Academic Strategy 2018-2022, p.10).

In line with UCC’s Graduate Attributes Programme, due to be formally launched by President O’ Shea in September 2019, this learning experience affords the Occupational Therapy students structured opportunities to develop these graduate attributes, in particular to become socially responsible; and effective, global citizens who recognise and challenge inequality and values of respect for others, ambition, compassion, resilience and integrity.

The aim of the Graduate Attributes Programme (Priority 4 of the UCC Academic Strategy 2018-2022) is to advance the development of students’ academic, specialist and technical competencies, equipping them with transferrable skills that can be applied in different environments. This programme exemplifies how UCC seeks to take a holistic educational approach to develop students’ character, professionalism and the capacity for critical and creative thought whilst integrating with the academic curriculum. The formation of a graduate does not take place purely in the classroom, and the innovative and highly successful cross-university partnership presented in this teaching award application provides a structured, replicable framework for other degree programmes to progress the development of their graduates’ attributes and core values. In particular, it showcases a vibrant, mutually beneficial partnership between academic and university support services that fulfils the objectives of each of the stakeholders.

The team has disseminated the model to the wider community via a case study on the Campus Engage website and through a paper presentation at the Student Affairs Ireland Summit in June 2019.


How are you going to make Graduate Attributes development explicit in the expression of the Curriculum and Learning Outcomes?

We have embedded the language of Graduate Attributes and Values throughout our Module outcomes.

Graduate Attributes Programme

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