Exploring occupational participation, choice, and opportunities of regional on-campus university students who have recently transitioned from secondary school

Amie Meads

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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    Introduction: Understanding the occupational experiences of humans is of core interest to occupational scientists. The transition from being a secondary school student to becoming a university student is a time of occupational change; however, although this transition is a common experience, it has not previously been extensively examined in the sphere of occupational therapy or occupational science research. This study aimed to address a gap in knowledge of the occupational experiences of young people as they transitioned to study at university. In particular, the occupational choices and opportunities that were available to regionally based university students in the first and second year of their studies were the focus. Furthermore, how the students’occupational participation affected their health and wellbeing was also investigated.
    Methods: A two-stage qualitative methodological approach was employed: Stage 1was hermeneutic phenomenology and Stage 2 was constructivist grounded theory. These methodologies were blended to arrive at an understanding of the lived experience of the participants, which was theoretically conceptualised. In Stage One, in- depth interviews were conducted with 24 female students recruited from a regional Australian university. In Stage 2, a focus group with 3 female university students recruited from the same setting as Stage 1was completed with the aim of developing, testing and consolidating a theory based on the findings of Stage One. The transcripts of interviews and the focus group were qualitatively analysed.
    Findings: The primary finding was that the participants experienced occupational role transition. The rural and rural and regional environments in which the students lived and worked while attending university offered choices and opportunities for occupational engagement that affected the participants’ development in three key areas. These three factors were influential upon the participants’ metamorphosis from being secondary school students to becoming university students. The three key areas were sense of occupational identity, occupational capability, and sense of social and cultural belonging to university and to the rural and regional environment. Ultimately, the students’ health and wellbeing were influenced by how successfully the students were able to navigate the metamorphosis process, including their development of identity, capability, and belongingness. A conceptual model was developed to represent the transition process: The Occupational Role Transition Model.
    Conclusion: This study adds to understanding about the factors that influence transitioning from one occupational role to another and it illuminates how health and wellbeing may be impacted by the transition process. This study also provides increased detailed understanding about the occupational experiences, choices and opportunities of regional university students as a population group. The findings provide impetus for further research into occupational role transition and how it might differ between different sub-population groups and different geographical locations.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Charles Sturt University
    • Smith, Megan, Principal Supervisor
    • Wilding, Clare, Co-Supervisor
    • van Huet, Helen, Co-Supervisor
    Award date14 Apr 2020
    Place of PublicationAustralia
    Publication statusPublished - 14 Apr 2020


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