The existing literature on professional identity enactment and development, subscribes to students’ socializing in a learning environment, where they regularly encounter practicing professionals throughout their education period. However, in most countries with less resourced occupational therapists like Ghana, education in occupational therapy is fraught with inadequate number of same professionals to mentor undergraduate occupational therapy students. The students are thus faced with serious dilemma regarding their professional identity which tends to elicit a bleak perception of their chosen career. The present study was therefore envisaged to interpret and analyse the students’ lived experiences, with the view to capture the process of constructing and developing professional identity. The study focused on purposively sampled group of nine undergraduate occupational therapy students during their practice placement education, and their learning styles on didactic lectures. A hermeneutic phenomenological approach was adopted for the study. The students were followed up throughout their four-year study program for data collection, using one-to-one semi-structured interviews each year. With reference to the threshold concepts, transcribed interview data were analyzed using interpretative phenomenological procedures. The study established a transformational development of professional identity from the novice stage into graduate professionals, amidst complex interaction of co-constructed themes which included: personal knowing, professional knowing and experiential knowing.


professional identity, learning environment, learning experience, threshold concepts, occupational therapy, professional socialization, phenomenology

Author Bio(s)

Dr Peter O. Ndaa is a lecturer at the Department of Occupational Therapy (OT), School of Biomedical and Allied Health Sciences, University of Ghana. Peter is an experienced Occupational Therapist with over 10 years practicing experience in the UK prior to taking up a job in academia to coordinate a new BSc Occupational Therapy professional course in Ghana. Peter has a PhD in Occupational Therapy from Coventry University after having his MSc OT at Glasgow Caledonia University and, BSc OT from Northumbria University all in the United Kingdom. He is also the immediate past president of Occupational Therapy Africa Regional Group (OTARG) a regional representative for world Federation of Occupational Therapist (WFOT). Peter is an academic consultant with University of Gondar, Ethiopia and the Queen’s University, Canada. Peter is on the Editorial Board of the South Africa Journal of Occupational Therapists. Currently Peter is assisting to set up the first Occupational Therapy programme in Ethiopia. Aside his academia roles, Peter is passionate to seeing his clients in their maximum functional capability and able to participate meaningfully in activities of their choice. Among his many researches in enabling independence, Peter has recently conducted this longitudinal phenomenological research into the first cohort of Ghanaian OT students’ professional identity development as they progressed through this new professional course programme. Please direct correspondence to: pndaa@chs.edu.gh

Prof. Katherine Wimpenny, PhD, MA, DipCOT, Cert Ed, is Professor of Research in Global Education and Theme Lead for Global Learning: Education Without Boundaries, in the Research Centre for Global Learning: Education and Attainment (GLEA), Research Institute of Global Learning, at Coventry University (CU). Katherine worked as an occupational therapist for 10 years in health followed by 10 years as an academic on the undergraduate and postgraduate occupational therapy programmes within HLS, CU. She was awarded her PhD in 2009 and partnered with several NHS Trusts facilitating knowledge transfer through participatory action research methodologies. Since 2010 she has held a full-time research role, initially as Research Fellow in Learning Innovation and then for four years in the Disruptive Media Learning Lab (DMLL) CU, where she was Conferred as Reader in Education Research and Pedagogy. In August 2017, Katherine started in GLEA having helped shape the business plan along with Professors Lynn Clouder and Christine Broughan. Katherine was Conferred as Professor of Research in Global Education in 2018. She works with a diverse range of national and international partners and has a track record in the design and coordination of research and innovation projects, both nationally and internationally, and is widely published in the academic literature. She is Visiting Professor at An-Najah National University Palestine.

Dr. Rebecca Khanna has extensive experience working in the statutory sectors of health and higher education as a senior manager and service evaluator. After qualifying as an Occupational Therapist in 1984, she gained a variety of experiences as a senior clinician working across mental health and physical rehabilitation services in a number of NHS Trusts within the UK. In 2000 she commenced working in higher education at Coventry University, where she held several senior roles at department and college level connected with course leadership, curriculum review and quality enhancement. Rebecca undertook project work within the Centre for Excellence in Inter-Professional E-Learning. Before leaving Coventry University she was seconded as project lead for a cross college project involving the concurrent major review of 12 pre-registration courses. In 2013 Rebecca joined Sheffield Hallam University as College Head of Quality working in Health and Wellbeing. Subsequently, in 2015 she became Assistant Dean, Academic Development. Rebecca is keen to pursue her ongoing interests of innovative curriculum models, inter-disciplinary working and maximising accreditation opportunities. She continues to work at national level as an HCPC Visitor and Accreditor of Occupational Therapy programmes, alongside serving on several national committees. She is also reviewer for the British Journal of Occupational Therapy and works as an External Examiner and invited panel member. Rebecca provides supervision to doctoral and MSc students.

Dr. Simon Goodman is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology with Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, School of Applied Social Sciences at the De Montfort University, Leicester. Dr. Goodman is an expert qualitative researcher. He uses discursive psychology to address a number of issues. Much of this research explores the discursive construction of asylum seekers and refugees in which he has focused on the ways in which potentially prejudicial arguments against asylum seekers are presented as reasonable and non-prejudicial. In addition, his work focuses on what is, and what is not, considered to be racist particularly with regard to asylum seeking. His research also explores the (largely negative) experiences of asylum seekers in the UK and the ways in which they make complaints and resist their negative presentations. His other interests include online hate speech, the British public’s understanding of income inequality and high earners, as well as the ways in which the far right attempt to present their policies as acceptable and non-racist.

Prof Ajediran Idowu Bello is an Associate Professor of Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy at the University of Ghana. Prof Bello’s research interests have always entailed modification of therapeutic exercises and other adjunct physical modalities in the remediation of musculoskeletal impairments and disability, as commonly experienced by individuals with musculoskeletal dysfunctions such as osteoarthritis. His research focus underscores the quest for data in support of best strategy to restore optimal body functions. He has often directed his efforts toward exploring impairments and disabilities (as rehabilitation potentials) in most non-communicable diseases. He has executed a couple of investigator-led and seed grants either as principal or co-principal investigator, and his research outputs on musculoskeletal dysfunctions are reflected in a host of publications. In addition to his over 10 years of teaching experience in musculoskeletal physiotherapy courses, he also led a team constituted by the Ghana Physiotherapy Association to develop practice guidelines for the rehabilitation of patients with COVID-19.


We acknowledge the maiden cohort of BSc occupational therapy students in Ghana who willingly agreed to participate in the project. Other appreciations go to Dr. Louis Connolly who helped to formulate the research idea.

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