Title

Meaning in occupation: A meta-synthesis of qualitative studies of meaningful occupation from the Journal of Occupational Science

Location

Room D

Start Time

18-10-2013 2:05 PM

End Time

18-10-2013 2:35 PM

Session Type

Research Paper

Abstract

BACKGROUND AND RATIONALE: Meaning is created as humans interpret events and experiences within occupation, thereby offering the potential to weave coherent and personally relevant patterns of experience within day-to-day life (Baumeister, 1991; Hasselkus, 2011). The nature of meaning in occupation has many dimensions that may be best explored through qualitative methods, inclusive of narratives eliciting personal subjective experiences associated with occupation. However, there has not been a systematic review that has sought to identify patterns in the subjective experiences of meaning associated with occupation across reports from the Journal of Occupational Science (JOS). This gap necessitates a synthesis of qualitative reports so as to deepen the understanding of meaning in occupation, and provide new conclusions capable of driving future research and benefitting occupational therapy education.

PURPOSE: This study sought to identify patterns of meaning (positive subjective experiences) associated with occupation through a synthesis of qualitative reports of meaningful occupation in JOS.

METHOD: Following a framework synthesis approach to qualitative meta-synthesis (Barnett-Page & Thomas, 2009; Sandelowski & Barroso, 2007), an a priori code reflecting a positive subjective experience associated with an occupation was applied to the results sections of 11 qualitative research articles from JOS chosen for study inclusion because they: 1) explicitly studied “meaning” associated with occupation, and 2) employed qualitative methods eliciting personal narrative. Extracted data required reference to a positive subjective experience directly associated with some form of occupation, and were collected exclusively from the Results sections of the articles. Upon full agreement by a team of three researchers data were extracted from the primary reports. Data were then analyzed by a team of two researchers through a spiral of reading, reflecting, describing, classifying, and interpreting the data (Creswell, 1998). The qualitative data analysis software ATLAS.ti aided in the development of emergent themes of meaning. Theme development, confirmation and disconfirmation occurred inductively and was informed by imported concepts from occupational science, occupational therapy, social and developmental psychology until consensus was reached between the researchers.

RESULTS: In all, 12 themes of meaning were discovered and organized into three higher-order themes: Selfhood, Social, and Pleasure. Selfhood represented the most substantial higher-order theme composed of the following meanings: identity, continuity, self-esteem, goals/purposes, self-efficacy/competence, control/independence, and health/well-being. Social meanings included belonging and helping and were richly inter-twined with the other themes of meaning. Pleasure included meanings of pleasure/enjoyment, satisfaction, and sensory/cognitive stimulation. Themes of meaning were found to motivate and support future occupation. In addition, analyses revealed a web of interconnections between both the higher-order and subsidiary themes, highlighting the complex nature of meaning in occupation.

DISCUSSION: This is the first study of JOS literature to rigorously employ qualitative meta-synthesis to organize and advance an understanding of meaning in occupation. Meaning associated with occupation was conceived in this study as a positive subjective experience and rich interconnections amongst themes highlighted the complexity of meaning in occupation. The notion of “webs of meaning” best captured this inter-relatedness amongst themes and affirmed and challenged findings from the primary reports from JOS.

Learning Objectives (At the conclusion of this session, participants will):

  • Identify common themes of meaning in occupation found in qualitative research studies.
  • Discover that multiple, inter-connected meanings exist within occupation.
  • Understand that therapeutic occupations can be crafted that motivate occupation and support well-being.

References

Baumeister, R.F.. (1991). Meanings of life. New York: The Guilford Press.

Barnett-Page, E., & Thomas, J. (2009). Methods for the synthesis of qualitative research: a critical review. BMC Medical Research Methodology, 9(59). doi: 10.1186/1471-2288-9-59.

Hasselkus, B.R (2011). The meaning of everyday occupation. Thorofare, NJ: Slack Inc.; 2011.

Sandelowski, M., & Barroso, J. (2007). Handbook for synthesizing qualitative research. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.

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Oct 18th, 2:05 PM Oct 18th, 2:35 PM

Meaning in occupation: A meta-synthesis of qualitative studies of meaningful occupation from the Journal of Occupational Science

Room D

BACKGROUND AND RATIONALE: Meaning is created as humans interpret events and experiences within occupation, thereby offering the potential to weave coherent and personally relevant patterns of experience within day-to-day life (Baumeister, 1991; Hasselkus, 2011). The nature of meaning in occupation has many dimensions that may be best explored through qualitative methods, inclusive of narratives eliciting personal subjective experiences associated with occupation. However, there has not been a systematic review that has sought to identify patterns in the subjective experiences of meaning associated with occupation across reports from the Journal of Occupational Science (JOS). This gap necessitates a synthesis of qualitative reports so as to deepen the understanding of meaning in occupation, and provide new conclusions capable of driving future research and benefitting occupational therapy education.

PURPOSE: This study sought to identify patterns of meaning (positive subjective experiences) associated with occupation through a synthesis of qualitative reports of meaningful occupation in JOS.

METHOD: Following a framework synthesis approach to qualitative meta-synthesis (Barnett-Page & Thomas, 2009; Sandelowski & Barroso, 2007), an a priori code reflecting a positive subjective experience associated with an occupation was applied to the results sections of 11 qualitative research articles from JOS chosen for study inclusion because they: 1) explicitly studied “meaning” associated with occupation, and 2) employed qualitative methods eliciting personal narrative. Extracted data required reference to a positive subjective experience directly associated with some form of occupation, and were collected exclusively from the Results sections of the articles. Upon full agreement by a team of three researchers data were extracted from the primary reports. Data were then analyzed by a team of two researchers through a spiral of reading, reflecting, describing, classifying, and interpreting the data (Creswell, 1998). The qualitative data analysis software ATLAS.ti aided in the development of emergent themes of meaning. Theme development, confirmation and disconfirmation occurred inductively and was informed by imported concepts from occupational science, occupational therapy, social and developmental psychology until consensus was reached between the researchers.

RESULTS: In all, 12 themes of meaning were discovered and organized into three higher-order themes: Selfhood, Social, and Pleasure. Selfhood represented the most substantial higher-order theme composed of the following meanings: identity, continuity, self-esteem, goals/purposes, self-efficacy/competence, control/independence, and health/well-being. Social meanings included belonging and helping and were richly inter-twined with the other themes of meaning. Pleasure included meanings of pleasure/enjoyment, satisfaction, and sensory/cognitive stimulation. Themes of meaning were found to motivate and support future occupation. In addition, analyses revealed a web of interconnections between both the higher-order and subsidiary themes, highlighting the complex nature of meaning in occupation.

DISCUSSION: This is the first study of JOS literature to rigorously employ qualitative meta-synthesis to organize and advance an understanding of meaning in occupation. Meaning associated with occupation was conceived in this study as a positive subjective experience and rich interconnections amongst themes highlighted the complexity of meaning in occupation. The notion of “webs of meaning” best captured this inter-relatedness amongst themes and affirmed and challenged findings from the primary reports from JOS.

Learning Objectives (At the conclusion of this session, participants will):

  • Identify common themes of meaning in occupation found in qualitative research studies.
  • Discover that multiple, inter-connected meanings exist within occupation.
  • Understand that therapeutic occupations can be crafted that motivate occupation and support well-being.