Walking in Their Footsteps: Influence of a Learning Experience on the Knowledge, Attitudes and Beliefs of First Year Occupational Therapy Students towards Aboriginal Australians

Rebekah White (2010). Walking in Their Footsteps: Influence of a Learning Experience on the Knowledge, Attitudes and Beliefs of First Year Occupational Therapy Students towards Aboriginal Australians PhD Thesis, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, The University of Queensland.

       
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Author Rebekah White
Thesis Title Walking in Their Footsteps: Influence of a Learning Experience on the Knowledge, Attitudes and Beliefs of First Year Occupational Therapy Students towards Aboriginal Australians
School, Centre or Institute School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2010-06
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Jenny Ziviani
Fiona Hinchliffe
Merrill Turpin
Total pages 312
Total black and white pages 312
Subjects 11 Medical and Health Sciences
Abstract/Summary Abstract Background: A major barrier to achieving social wellbeing for Aboriginal Australians is the lack of understanding by the wider Australian community of what it means to be Aboriginal (Zubrick et al., 2006, p. 102). Indigenous Australians experience racism at higher rates than others of differing racial backgrounds in the Australian population (Mellor, 2003). Little is known about healthcare workers’ knowledge, attitudes and beliefs toward Aboriginal Australians, and as much can be said for occupational therapists. Occupational therapists have a responsibility to ensure healthcare services are culturally sensitive for Aboriginal Australians. Thus they need to be informed about Aboriginal culture and to understand the impact of socio-political and historical factors on the ongoing wellbeing of Aboriginal Australians. Education is posited as a key strategy for reducing negative stereotypes and prejudice, and fostering non-judgmental attitudes such as sensitivity and respect for diversity. Aims: This thesis comprises two separate but related studies. The first study aimed to determine the attitudes of first-year occupational therapy students towards Aboriginal Australians and to compare these with the attitudes of i) another cohort of allied health students, ii) students from the broader University of Queensland population, and iii) occupational therapy students in later years of training. A second study was undertaken with the aim of determining the comparative impact of an experiential learning program on the knowledge, attitudes and beliefs of first-year occupational therapy students towards Aboriginal Australians. Methodology: Study 1 involved a descriptive cross-sectional survey design. Student cohorts surveyed included those enrolled in occupational therapy at all levels of training (undergraduate and masters-level), first-year speech pathology, and a sample from the broader University of Queensland student population. Measures included the Australian Attitudes Questionnaire Modified for Health Professionals (AAQ[HP]) and the Hypothetical Clinical Encounter (HCE). Psychometric properties of these measures were evaluated using principal component analyses. Analyses of variance were performed to compare first-year occupational therapy students’ attitudes with other student groups. Study 2 involved an experimental study designed to evaluate the impact of the Strategic Indigenous Awareness Program developed and facilitated by an experienced Indigenous consultant. Two comparison groups were employed; one involving a lecture and tutorial of similar time duration, and another where students attended only their regular study commitments. The AAQ[HP] and HCE were administered on three occasions, pre-, one week post-, and six months post-education sessions. Qualitative data was also obtained through focus groups. Findings: Few negative attitudes towards Aboriginal Australians were evident amongst first-year occupational therapy students. Affective responses were somewhat mixed, with anxiety about interacting with Aboriginal Australians prevalent amongst a minority of these students. First-year occupational therapy students’ attitudes were comparable with all other student groups. Participation in the Strategic Indigenous Awareness Program resulted in a reduction in students’ prejudice and victim blaming. Empirical findings indicated an increase in empathy one week after attending the experiential workshop and qualitative data supported this finding. Specifically, students perceived an increase in their understanding of Aboriginal culture, awareness of Aboriginal Australians’ feelings, and an increase in empathy towards Aboriginal Australians. In comparison, no changes were evident in the attitudes of students who attended only their regular curriculum experiences. Students who attended the Strategic Indigenous Awareness Program demonstrated lower prejudice and higher guilt and support for apology following their attendance, compared with those students who attended only their regular curriculum experiences. Evaluation of changes in attitudes for those students who attended the lecture and tutorial was not possible due to insufficient sample size and consequently comparisons between the impact of a standard lecture and tutorial against the experiential workshop could not be drawn. Mixed results were evident regarding the sustained impact of the Strategic Indigenous Awareness Program on students’ attitudes at six months post attendance. Changes in subtle prejudice remained evident amongst students six months after attending the experiential workshop, however empirical evidence indicated that changes with regard to victim blaming and empathy were not sustained. Conclusions: Strategies to enhance cultural respect need to address both cognitive and affective components of held attitudes towards Aboriginal Australians. This study provides preliminary evidence supporting the efficacy of the Strategic Indigenous Awareness Program as an introductory teaching strategy for reducing prejudice and engendering positive attitudes towards Aboriginal Australians amongst first-year occupational therapy students. Further learning opportunities would, however, need to be incorporated into occupational therapy programs to enhance this experience. While the current study has a number of limitations, the inclusion of objective measures, pre and post intervention as well as a longer term follow-up (six month), are design considerations that have been absent in many earlier studies. The involvement of a control group and detailed description of the program being evaluated are, however, strengths and should be considered for inclusion in future research.
Keyword Occupational therapy education
prejudice
cultural competence
cultural respect
experiential learning
Indigenous Australians
Additional Notes Landscape Pages: 79, 80, 83, 123, 126, 134, 138, 139, 145, 146, 154, 189, 196, 200, 201, 204 & 220.

 
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Created: Wed, 17 Nov 2010, 09:50:36 EST by Mrs Rebekah White on behalf of Library - Information Access Service