Examining the development of baccalaureate occupational therapy students’ social and emotional competencies across a four-year program

Mong-Lin Yu, Ted Brown, Alana Hewitt, Robert Cousland, Lisa Licciardi, Carissa Lyons

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Introduction: Effective emotional and social competence assists students in managing feelings, stressful situations and fostering relationships with clients, peers, academic and practice educators. It is a key professional competence that students need to develop during their studies to meet multiple learning, practice and life expectations, and ultimately competent occupational therapists.

Objective: To investigate the levels of occupational therapy students’ emotional and social competence.

Method: First-, second-, third- and fourth-year baccalaureate occupational therapy students (n=360) enrolled at an Australian university completed the Emotional and Social Competency Inventory–University Edition (ESCI-U). Data was analysed using regression analysis and contrast tests.

Results: The three highest average ESCI-U subscale scores were: teamwork (χ=4.05), empathy (χ=4.01), and achievement orientation (χ=3.94). The three lowest average subscale scores were: were systems thinking (χ=3.52), inspirational leadership (χ=3.52), and coach and monitor (χ=3.51). It was noted that fourth year students’ emotional self-control (β=-0.27, p=0.03), positive outlook (β=-0.26, p=0.02) and influence (β=-0.26, p=0.02) subscale scores were significantly lower than their first-year peers.

Conclusion: Overall, students demonstrated good social and emotional competencies, with strengths in teamwork, empathy and achievement orientation competencies, fundamental in health service practice. However, fourth-year students demonstrated lower scores in emotional self-control, positive outlook, and influence competencies compared to the first-year students. This indicates that fourth-year students have developed better self-awareness, can be more reflective and have better understanding of reality. It is recommended that targeted learning opportunities to develop students’ emotional and social competences to nurture final year students’ abilities and confidence be incorporated into the curriculum. Academic and practice educators working with final year occupational therapy students need to consider the associated stress during this time when providing education and supports. This will enhance students’ learning experiences, practice placements outcomes, and readiness for graduate life.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2020
EventVirtual OT Exchange 2020: Learn, Practice, Enrich - Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 14 Sept 202015 Sept 2020


ConferenceVirtual OT Exchange 2020
Abbreviated titleOT Exchange 2020
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