Growing from dilemmas: developing a professional identity through collaborative reflections on relational dilemmas

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Health educators nurture future generations of professionals by helping them to navigate the complex transition from students to therapists. The purpose of this study was to illustrate how a pedagogical method of collaborative reflection (involving reflective writing, sharing, and discussion) on relational dilemmas with role partners can develop occupational therapists’ professional identity. The course, in which this method was applied, implemented the supervision and peer learning frameworks as related to student’s fieldwork experiences, and is based on the perception of growing from conflicts and exploration. The study is based on analyzing qualitative data of 392 dilemma cases and 196 texts of personal reflection on classroom work of undergraduate students in occupational therapy. A thematic analysis of the case studies revealed six overarching relational dilemmas that novice therapists are often called upon to deal with when working with patients, patients’ families and colleagues from other health professions. Analyzing the personal texts of reflection highlighted the effectiveness of collaborative reflection in bridging the gap between theory and practice, and in helping students develop their professional identity. The method can be adapted to curricula for students and therapists in other health professions, in undergraduate courses, and in group supervision programs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-60
Number of pages18
JournalAdvances in Health Sciences Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2018


  • Collaborative reflection
  • Dilemma
  • Education
  • Group supervision
  • Occupational therapy
  • Professional identity
  • Professional socialization


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