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Making the link between theory and practice

Dr Katrina Bannigan and Debbie PearsonYork St John University has developed a Model of Professional Thinking (MPT) that integrates the skills that shape the way health professionals think to ensure that allied health professionals have the skills to deliver best practice.

Reflective practice and evidence-based practice are generally seen as discrete subjects in health education programmes and are usually taught separately. York St John University is leading a project that aims to integrate these skills into a Model of Professional Thinking (MPT).

Attracting interest from colleagues internationally, the project is also encouraging the development of further networking and research.

In 2009, Dr Katrina Bannigan, reader in Occupational Therapy at York St John University, and Alis Moores, a former senior lecturer at York St John, published a paper outlining their thoughts on the need to support students to understand the link between theory and practice. Appearing in the Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, the paper proved to be the journal’s most downloaded article in 2010, and was in the top five in 2011. After reading the article, Debbie Pearson, senior lecturer at the University worked in consultation with Dr Katrina Bannigan to develop a template for the MPT that could be used by students to help them during their placements.

Debbie Pearson said: “When we talk to students about how they integrate theory and practice, they often find it hard to articulate their experiences. I felt that the MPT gave a fresh look at the issues. One of my students showed me her notebook, which was full of thoughts about her placement but she found it difficult to organise them into a useful resource. In consultation with physiotherapists and occupational therapists in the Faculty, we drew up the template which encourages students to organise and reflect on their placement experiences, using the MPT as a structure. The relationship between reflective practice and evidence-based practice is overt within the model, and students are reminded of a need to enquire, investigate and evaluate the evidence as an integral part of their reflection.”

A seminar on the MPT introduced the template at this year’s annual conference of the College of Occupational Therapists in Glasgow. This was an opportunity to launch the MPT website, which includes a downloadable version of the template. “Around 30 delegates attended our seminar,” explained Debbie, “and as well as colleagues and students from universities and services in the UK, we also attracted people from Australia and New Zealand. The discussion took off and many of the participants are introducing the MPT to their own colleagues back home.”

A group of Level 3 Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy students at York St John will work as co-researchers with Katrina and Debbie to evaluate the use of the MPT as part of their dissertation module during the next semester. “We will reflect on their findings,” said Debbie, “as well as the evaluations received from our international colleagues. We will continue to develop the MPT as it has so much potential for our students, as well as other allied health professionals and their work in health and social care settings.”

For further information, please visit the MPT website at www.yorksj.ac.uk/MPT