Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy Dr. Nancy Carlson Steadman published her research, “Beyond Consumers and Stakeholders: Students Reflecting-on-Action as Active Partners in Program Evaluation,” in the Education Special Interest Section Quarterly.
She presented research at the inaugural Education Summit, which was sponsored by the American Occupational Therapy Association in Atlanta, Ga. The topic, “Reflection-on-Action: Participation Action Research” discussed participatory action research applying to college students in the assessment of their own academics. Her presentation included a discussion on ethical dilemmas students may have in required assignments and benefits to writing reflective journal entries.
This is not Steadman’s first publication; she was invited to write a chapter on the practice of occupational therapy in physical rehabilitation settings prior to this most recent publication. “It was written for physicians as a quick-reference guide to help physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians understand occupational therapy,” Steadman said. Her most recent publication was written during a personal sabbatical, which followed her serving 12 years as a faculty member at Elizabethtown College.
“It stemmed from outcomes research that I conducted while serving as the occupational therapy department chair,” Steadman said. She explained the significance of her experience by saying, “This research for me hallmarks a new beginning. My hope for this phase of my career is to further hone my teaching, and also to engage deeply in scholarship and research.”
The research done for the presentation started as a way to evaluate the effectiveness of an educational program. “I was evaluating the educational outcomes of the occupational therapy program, in collaboration with occupational therapy graduate students. I wanted to answer the question, ‘Was this task of evaluating program/education outcomes with students an effective way for them to learn about scholarly inquiry?’,” Steadman said. She found that the research began to evolve as students became more active participants in the study of their own education. The shift from passive participants to active participants transformed the research beyond expectations.
The research model, Participatory Action Research, is a collaborative model in which there is shared, authentic and collaborative partnership in communities. Individuals make critical evaluations of a situation in the spirit of contributing to the community. This type of research has been used to improve the quality of life, social justice and democratic ideals. Recently, students have become more engaged and involved in the research; they are active participants in the evaluation and development of the educational practices.
Steadman believes that this type of research captures the campus value of involving students in scientific inquiry. “It also partners nicely with the College’s Brethren heritage that values the contributions of all voices and seeks to make the world a better place,” Steadman said.