Planning and Designing for Learning

Throughout my career, I have either led or contributed to the planning and designing of degree and postgraduate curricula. One of my roles is to advocate for multiple opportunities to prepare students for therapeutic practice through active, face-to-face engagements in clinical settings. In this section, I share three design approaches:

Programme Development

In the 1990s, as part of a team of occupational therapists from a broad spectrum of practice such as art therapy through to my specialist area of neurorehabilitation, we challenged the dominant dualistic paradigm operating at the time and set about developing and obtaining approval for a holistic approach to the discipline.

I was responsible for building into the design process the first community placements for occupational therapy fieldwork students offered in New Zealand. This initiative continues to operate successfully for students, lecturers, community services and clients. We have developed a reputation for placing work-ready students into clinical settings and always have more requests than we can fill.

Another feature involved the school hosting an annual thematic exhibition of practical and engaging activities, which we opened to the public. My design contribution was to ensure that students could interpret a theme in ways that would be meaningful for the visitors. I built sufficient flexibility into the design process to enable students to understand and experience the power of their creative capabilities. From the outset, I wanted them to gain a sense of agency and take responsibility for developing and designing the exhibitions. Tasks included designing and producing the activities, creating a space, marketing, hosting, health and safety, and importantly drawing visitors into the work of occupational therapists.

One student intake held a Where the wild things Are  exhibition based on a popular children’s book, where they made a cave and invited children to come in and listen to them tell stories. The same student-storytellers encouraged the children to act out various scenes and express themselves through play.

I also designed opportunities for students to reflect on the outcomes of these exhibitions. Regular debriefs were key design features. On the final exhibition day, and after all the visitors had left, I incorporated another stage of the design process, which was to gather all the students and lecturers together prior to clearing the space. We shared stories about the stories that had unfolded during the day – meta-storytelling. These group reflections were designed to inform a final essay on the students’ experiences.


Program re-Design – Masters

Since taking up the position of Master’s program coordinator I have been able to attract the largest single cohort of Master’s students since the program began. I am now in the process of re-designing the Master’s program so that it is even more relevant and attractive to clinicians.   This process has already commenced as we engage students in

a lengthy and detailed consultation process, which ensures that research is positioned for maximum impact both clinically and academically.

I am also actively engaged in getting feedback from Master’s students, past and present and this feedback is being drawn upon as part of the re-design of the program for 2019. This consultation is being done through two separate research projects. In one I have engaged in a year long autoethnographic process examining my own practice as a supervisor. In another project I have started a series of conversations with clinicians around New Zealand about the efficacy of the research degree process. This is being followed up in August 2018 with a survey that will be sent to the


Community Project Development

Central to my design approach is drawing on community connections to develop authentic learning experiences that ensure students have the knowledge, skills and appropriate attitudes to work with people with disability. Student awareness is deepened through a scaffolding process that enables them to move from novice through to expert. I have researched and designed a variety of interactive simulation exercises doing everyday activities, which sighted people take for granted. These included wearing simulation goggles or using the VisSim app Braille Foundation.

These exercises and technologies provide an entry into learning about visual impairment at multiple levels. For example, my fieldwork students designed a vision simulation exercise to use with secondary school students as part of learning about the stages of grief; other fieldwork students took a vision simulation exercise to a daycare center to teach older people about the effects of visual impairment.

I also developed awareness-building exercises for students to use with members of the public on World Sight Day. The students managed this event in the Octagon, Central Dunedin. Along with conducting lighting assessments in stalls and creating challenging situations where members of the public wore goggles and then poured water into glasses, they also set out a mobility scooter obstacle event and invited people to try it out whilst wearing simulation goggles.

Learning to be sighted guides


Course Development

I am a strong advocate within the areas I teach, and have worked at a clinical and policy levels for a number of groups. Due to a lack of low vision services in New Zealand a community group contacted me in 2014 and asked if I establish postgraduate training at OP for health professionals.

Getting this course off the ground became a battle at national level for the profession and in our school. Those of us who were committed to the cause made representations to the Ministry of Health (MoH) for funding through a National Reference Group. When this was unsuccessful, at my persistent urging, the school relented and gave me permission to develop a Postgraduate Certificate in Applied Practice in Health (Vision Rehabilitation), as part of a professional commitment to the low vision community.

With no similar course in the country, I consulted with various consumer groups both nationally and internationally. For example, through a connection I have with Krister Inde (called the ‘Father of low vision services in Europe’), we were given access to courses developed by the German Jordanian University for developing countries. This was a great starting place to develop teaching that was relevant to the service but it required considerable adaptation.

Throughout the development of the course, I was mentored by an Associate Professor in Ophthalmology and also an Occupational Therapist with years of clinical and managerial experience. Underpinning the design of the course was a determination that students would develop scientific credibility, and that they would leave with practical tools to embed low vision into their clinical practice.

To embed low vision education into a conversation that spanned the globe and drew on a variety of models and systems, I invited international experts to give online lectures to students. Many agreed. I believe that this exposure has engendered creative thinking and confidence in my students to find home-based solutions. For example, one mature student working as a high level manager holding the Ministry of Health’s national Spectacles contract was able to expand the parameters of her contract to access a range of creative magnification options for people on low incomes. Another student set up a low vision support group in a rural area.

Robust curriculum design leads to powerful learning when it includes the voice of the person with disability in authentic ways. I have been able to generate community collaborations that have enabled multiple placements and learning opportunities for my students