Title

Student Poster Session - Applying occupational science views of context to an independent study of unemployment: One student’s understandings

Start Time

18-10-2013 12:40 PM

End Time

18-10-2013 1:30 PM

Abstract

This poster communicates how understandings about context were presented in an occupational science course and applied to a student’s independent study of unemployment the following semester. According to the OT Practice Framework II, “context is a variety of interrelated conditions within and surrounding the person that influence performance” (AOTA, 2002, p. 645). For this project, observations and interviews at a non-profit organization were used as the basis for applying understandings about context. The project occurred in spring 2013 and was part of a larger study of long-term unemployment in the United States and Canada. This project revealed what contexts are most significant in experiences of unemployment as described in interviews with people who are unemployed. Data collection is still ongoing, but preliminary findings suggest that the social and personal contexts are most significant in this experience.

Social context consists of the different relationships, organizations, and expectations of populations that define the different roles and responsibilities that impact a person (AOTA, 2008). One study participant explained how his relationships had changed after he had become unemployed. He said he now has to depend on friends and public buses for transportation since his wife divorced him and took his truck in the settlement. His dependence on others for transportation was part of his transition from being a self-sufficient worker to being an unemployed man who relies on others. Personal context also plays a role in experiences with unemployment. Personal context includes “a person’s age, gender, socioeconomic status, and educational status” (AOTA, 2008, p. 645). The same participant discussed looking for a job, earning his GED, and maintaining economic stability through the use of food stamps and social security checks. Specifically, he explained the continuous cycle of having to put off taking GED classes in order to look for a job and jobs not want to hire him because he does not have his GED. Overall, personal and social contexts were both important to analyzing the participant’s life because they were expressed as foundations for identity and the way the participant interacted with the world.

This case study contributes to occupational science by showing how students learn to see people through an occupational lens. Through an occupational lens, students can analyze aspects of a person’s context to see how it influences occupational identity. According to Unruh (2004), Christiansen’s “concept of occupation as identity [shows] that self-identity [is] closely related to what we do” (p. 291). Occupational identity is an important consideration within unemployment experiences because job loss tends to affect identity. According to Yerxa (1998), “people who are unemployed and have no organized leisure often become depressed, losing their sense of identity and purpose in life as well as their health” (p. 415). Poster discussion will focus on how such occupational science understandings opened the first author’s eyes to the contextual factors that influence identity and occupation during unemployment. The discussion aims to demonstrate the value of undergraduate occupational science educational experiences.

Key words: context, occupational science, education

References

American Occupational Therapy Association. (2008). Occupational therapy practice framework: Domain and process (2nd ed.). American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 62, 625–683.

Unruh, A. M. (2004). Reflections on: "so .. , what do you do?" Occupation and the construction of identity. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 71(5), 290-295.

Yerxa, E. J. (1998). Health and the human spirit for occupation. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 52(6), 412-418.

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Oct 18th, 12:40 PM Oct 18th, 1:30 PM

Student Poster Session - Applying occupational science views of context to an independent study of unemployment: One student’s understandings

This poster communicates how understandings about context were presented in an occupational science course and applied to a student’s independent study of unemployment the following semester. According to the OT Practice Framework II, “context is a variety of interrelated conditions within and surrounding the person that influence performance” (AOTA, 2002, p. 645). For this project, observations and interviews at a non-profit organization were used as the basis for applying understandings about context. The project occurred in spring 2013 and was part of a larger study of long-term unemployment in the United States and Canada. This project revealed what contexts are most significant in experiences of unemployment as described in interviews with people who are unemployed. Data collection is still ongoing, but preliminary findings suggest that the social and personal contexts are most significant in this experience.

Social context consists of the different relationships, organizations, and expectations of populations that define the different roles and responsibilities that impact a person (AOTA, 2008). One study participant explained how his relationships had changed after he had become unemployed. He said he now has to depend on friends and public buses for transportation since his wife divorced him and took his truck in the settlement. His dependence on others for transportation was part of his transition from being a self-sufficient worker to being an unemployed man who relies on others. Personal context also plays a role in experiences with unemployment. Personal context includes “a person’s age, gender, socioeconomic status, and educational status” (AOTA, 2008, p. 645). The same participant discussed looking for a job, earning his GED, and maintaining economic stability through the use of food stamps and social security checks. Specifically, he explained the continuous cycle of having to put off taking GED classes in order to look for a job and jobs not want to hire him because he does not have his GED. Overall, personal and social contexts were both important to analyzing the participant’s life because they were expressed as foundations for identity and the way the participant interacted with the world.

This case study contributes to occupational science by showing how students learn to see people through an occupational lens. Through an occupational lens, students can analyze aspects of a person’s context to see how it influences occupational identity. According to Unruh (2004), Christiansen’s “concept of occupation as identity [shows] that self-identity [is] closely related to what we do” (p. 291). Occupational identity is an important consideration within unemployment experiences because job loss tends to affect identity. According to Yerxa (1998), “people who are unemployed and have no organized leisure often become depressed, losing their sense of identity and purpose in life as well as their health” (p. 415). Poster discussion will focus on how such occupational science understandings opened the first author’s eyes to the contextual factors that influence identity and occupation during unemployment. The discussion aims to demonstrate the value of undergraduate occupational science educational experiences.

Key words: context, occupational science, education