Impact of a Post Registration Degree Programme for Occupational Therapists in Sri Lanka

Gardner, Marjorie Helen (2019). Impact of a Post Registration Degree Programme for Occupational Therapists in Sri Lanka. EdD thesis The Open University.



This study evaluates the impact of a post registration degree programme in Occupational Therapy (OT) run by the University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka, on the professional lives and professional practice of the first batch of students to complete the course (n=19). The students were all experienced, practising occupational therapists holding a Diploma in Occupational Therapy from the School of Occupational Therapy in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The degree programme was supported by Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO), the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the European Union (EU).

Within a Realist Impact Evaluation (RIE) methodology, three strands of enquiry were synthesised: documentary analysis of documents relating to the course development, delivery and evaluation; qualitative semi-structured interviews with graduate first batch students (n=17); and qualitative semi-structured interviews with a range of stakeholders in the course (n=12).

Expectations of impacts prior to course delivery were expressed by non-student stakeholders in broad terms such as ‘more comprehensive services of a better quality’ whereas students were more concerned with professional development. Specific outcomes reported by students included a stronger professional identity, increased confidence in their professional practice, opportunities for career development and a sense of what occupational therapy, as a profession, could achieve in Sri Lanka. Outcomes reported by non-student stakeholders related to service and societal benefit and capacity building within the occupational therapy profession. The mechanisms by which degree level education supported these outcomes were explored as well as the influence of contextual supports and barriers to transferring learning into practice.

The overall impact of educating diploma holding occupational therapists to degree level has been to build capacity and capability in the profession, developing confident, client-centred, evidence-based practitioners and educators, such that future degree programmes are now sustainable without support from outside of Sri Lanka.

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