Title

Revealing and representing complexity: A case for methodological creativity in occupational science

Location

New River Room A

Start Time

3-10-2015 10:15 AM

End Time

3-10-2015 10:45 AM

Abstract

Occupational scientists need to adopt methods that can represent the situational whole in which occupation unfolds. The purpose of this presentation is to argue for methodological creativity in the study of occupation. We suggest that using multiple methods in order to better understand the dynamic and complex nature of participation is consistent with a transactional theoretical framework, and argue that expanding methodological options will move our discipline forward in terms of the types of questions we can ask and the strength of knowledge we can offer. We use findings from two research studies about participation in older age, each employing a different methodology, as examples of how an expansion of methods leads to a richer understanding of occupation. First, we will show how GPS mapping of older adults’ daily activities revealed embodied habits, time- and place-navigation and influences on occupation that were largely unrecognized or taken for granted by the participants. The maps, created over several weeks, offered a unique window into the negotiated, situated nature of participants’ participation patterns. Second, we will describe a study of a community mall, where the occupations that occurred within the mall were studied primarily via naturalistic observation. Combining these observations with current and historical photographs, documents, and analysis of geographic and socioeconomic influences provided rich data about patterns of engagement within the mall and the tensions that shaped occupational possibilities for older adults. While both of these studies involved older adults, the methodologies—and the dimensions of occupation they reveal—are relevant to many other areas of inquiry. Additionally, both studies are strong examples of how a transactional perspective of occupation can prospectively inform research design. The potential for using such methodologies to ask system- and population-level questions is especially promising for research in areas of occupational justice and occupational possibilities, where the focus extends beyond the individual as the unit of analysis. We conclude with a discussion of these possible extensions, as well next steps for strengthening the rigor of these methods.

References

Hart, E., & Heatwole Shank, K. (in press). Participating at the Mall: Possibilities and Tensions that Shape Older Adults’ Occupation. Journal of Occupational Science.

Heatwole Shank, K. (2012). Mixed Methods and Pragmatism for Research on Occupation. In M. P. Cutchin and V.A. Dickie (Eds.), Transactional Perspectives on Occupation (pp. 183-195). Dordrecht: Springer.

Laliberte Rudman, D. (2005). Understanding political influences on occupational possibilities: An analysis of newspaper constructions of retirement. Journal of Occupational Science, 12(3), 149-160.

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Oct 3rd, 10:15 AM Oct 3rd, 10:45 AM

Revealing and representing complexity: A case for methodological creativity in occupational science

New River Room A

Occupational scientists need to adopt methods that can represent the situational whole in which occupation unfolds. The purpose of this presentation is to argue for methodological creativity in the study of occupation. We suggest that using multiple methods in order to better understand the dynamic and complex nature of participation is consistent with a transactional theoretical framework, and argue that expanding methodological options will move our discipline forward in terms of the types of questions we can ask and the strength of knowledge we can offer. We use findings from two research studies about participation in older age, each employing a different methodology, as examples of how an expansion of methods leads to a richer understanding of occupation. First, we will show how GPS mapping of older adults’ daily activities revealed embodied habits, time- and place-navigation and influences on occupation that were largely unrecognized or taken for granted by the participants. The maps, created over several weeks, offered a unique window into the negotiated, situated nature of participants’ participation patterns. Second, we will describe a study of a community mall, where the occupations that occurred within the mall were studied primarily via naturalistic observation. Combining these observations with current and historical photographs, documents, and analysis of geographic and socioeconomic influences provided rich data about patterns of engagement within the mall and the tensions that shaped occupational possibilities for older adults. While both of these studies involved older adults, the methodologies—and the dimensions of occupation they reveal—are relevant to many other areas of inquiry. Additionally, both studies are strong examples of how a transactional perspective of occupation can prospectively inform research design. The potential for using such methodologies to ask system- and population-level questions is especially promising for research in areas of occupational justice and occupational possibilities, where the focus extends beyond the individual as the unit of analysis. We conclude with a discussion of these possible extensions, as well next steps for strengthening the rigor of these methods.