Free
Poster Session
Issue Date: August 2016
Published Online: August 01, 2016
Updated: January 01, 2021
Eye to the Future: Impact of a Service Learning Course Focused on Low Vision on Undergraduate Health Science Students
Author Affiliations
  • University of Hartford
Article Information
Geriatrics/Productive Aging / Health and Wellness / Vision / Health Services Research and Education
Poster Session   |   August 01, 2016
Eye to the Future: Impact of a Service Learning Course Focused on Low Vision on Undergraduate Health Science Students
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011510213. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2016.70S1-PO4099
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011510213. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2016.70S1-PO4099
Abstract

Date Presented 4/8/2016

Participants will learn about an undergraduate course related to low vision in older adults that was designed to pique interest in working with an aging population. Results of research designed to assess students’ perceptions of the course will be discussed.

Primary Author and Speaker: Claudia Oakes

The purpose of the study was to understand undergraduate students’ perceptions of a course with a service learning component that was designed to increase their interest in working with older adults.
As the population ages, practitioners must be prepared to work with older adults (Institute of Medicine, 2008). Research is needed to understand the ways in which gerontology coursework at the undergraduate level influences students’ interest in working with this population. This presentation will describe a newly developed undergraduate course with a service learning component that focused on older adults with low vision. Students learned about ocular anatomy and diagnoses that result in low vision. They were introduced to a range of professionals and services available to older adults with low vision, an important part of interprofessional education (Interprofessional Education Collaborative Expert Panel, 2011). Students provided valuable community service by sharing the information they learned with residents of an assisted living facility. They completed individual interviews with the residents who had low vision to learn about their adaptation.
This mixed-methods study involved a survey that was completed before and after the course was offered. Students also completed weekly reflections, on which a content analysis was completed.
Ten undergraduate health science students enrolled in a course titled “Low Vision in Older Adults” participated in the study. Students completed pre- and postcourse surveys and were asked to rank order seven course objectives. They also completed weekly reflection logs.
The Friedman test (Conover, 1980) was used to answer the research question “Were any of the objectives consistently ranked higher than the others?” Content analysis was used to determine themes in the students’ reflection papers.
The results, Q(6) = 29.143, p < .000, demonstrate that students placed higher value on objectives related to fact-based course content than on objectives related to attitudes about working with older adults. Analysis of weekly journal entries painted a more nuanced picture. Many students wrote that they could envision working with older adults and felt they had a better understanding of the complexity of the skills required to successfully do so. They valued the opportunity to learn about the roles of health professionals who help older adults with visual impairments, as they recognize the importance of teamwork in health care.
Undergraduate coursework can have an impact on students’ perceptions of working with older adults and in their knowledge about the importance of teamwork in health care. Community-based projects can offer meaningful experiences. The study was limited by small sample size.
Students in an undergraduate course on low vision in older adults valued the chance to interact with older adults and the opportunity to learn about a range of professionals who improve the lives of people with low vision. Community-based experiences in the undergraduate curriculum can be instrumental in preparing the occupational therapy workforce to meet the needs of older adults.
References
Conover, W. (1980). Practical nonparametric statistics (2nd ed.). New York: Wiley.
Institute of Medicine. (2008). Retooling for an aging America: Building the health care workforce. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
Interprofessional Education Collaborative Expert Panel. (2011). Core competencies for interprofessional collaborative practice. Washington, DC: Author.