Are you looking for a Level 2 project for fieldwork students working in school-based OT? Whether you’re a Level 2 student or a fieldwork supervisor, fieldwork projects can be a great way to learn more about occupational therapy practice while also advocating for the profession. Here are some ideas to consider as you decide on your project.
Discuss Project Ideas Collaboratively
While there are some great project ideas in this article, before you get your heart set on one, pause. Fieldwork students should work closely with their clinical supervisor and the rest of the school team to figure out where the gaps might be in that district’s OT department. This is going to be highly specific to each district, and taking the time to understand what is needed will ensure the project is actually meaningful and valuable. This way, you can create something useful that lives beyond your fieldwork placement rather than just checking a box on your evaluation form. That being said, if you’ve discussed ideas with your supervisor and you’re both left scratching your head, here are some potential projects.
Create an OT Department Manual
What was that copier code again? Shoot, how do I reset my password to the IEP system? And what was that bit of text my supervisor wanted me to include in my email communications with parents? If you have access to a school-based OT manual, the answers to these questions can be found in seconds. If you don’t – well, have fun searching your email, those old file cabinets, and that post-it note that fell off your computer last month.
Having all of the important information about how the OT department and school district at large operate in one place is integral. It’s the difference between being able to move forward on your tasks without roadblocks vs waiting on someone to respond to that email you sent last week about a district policy.
If the OT department doesn’t already have a manual or guide like this, consider creating one for your fieldwork project. Ideally, this would be hosted on an online, searchable platform like Google Drive. Don’t feel like you have to write a 50-page document in one sitting. But as you encounter situations in your fieldwork that you know you’ll want to refer back to, take time to document the process/password/policy. The OTs and students who come after you will thank you!
Help Refine the Referral Process
If you’re joining a team of established school OTs, you might find that there already is a referral process and that it’s working well. If so, score! But as a travel OT who has worked in many districts with inconsistent staffing, I find this isn’t always the case. Setting up a referral process can help you ensure the students that are referred to the OT team for assessment are appropriate and will likely be recommended for services. I can’t tell you how many students I’ve assessed who didn’t go through a referral process and had no need for school-based OT. And the sad part is, for most of these students I could have told you that after spending 30 minutes with them!
For this reason, I try to heavily recommend that students are screened instead of heading straight to OT assessment. This will allow you to observe the student in their natural environment and watch for any difficulties that have been reported. This is also a good option because it allows you to start giving strategies to teachers right away – whereas the assessment process can take several months before the reports are reviewed and recommendations are implemented.
Work collaboratively with your fieldwork supervisor to develop and document a referral process as your fieldwork project. But before you fully implement this process, check in with the district to ensure that everything you’re recommending is in line with federal and state laws and regulations.
Create a Google Drive of Intervention Materials
Is your fieldwork placement still relying on dusty filing cabinets to store intervention activities? Consider upgrading the department to this century by creating an online resource for intervention. One of the easiest ways to do this is by creating a Google Drive full of activities, handouts, and educational resources. You can find these resources across a variety of online websites like Teachers Pay Teachers, Tools to Grow, or Pink Oatmeal. You could even create some resources of your own! Or, if there are any department favorites in those file cabinets, consider taking the time to scan them in and make digital copies.
Once you have all of the resources, rename them with a consistent format that will be easily searchable in the future. Then, organize these resources into different folders by the type of skill/occupation they target. I guarantee you that future OTs will be so happy at the time you’ve saved them!
Help the OT Department Do a Time Study
Does it seem like the workload at your placement is way too high? One way of determining this is doing a time study. This involves each therapist writing down what they did every hour (or even shorter interval) of a day.
For your fieldwork project, consider coordinating this for the OT department. You can help create or source spreadsheets/forms that allow therapists to track their time. When you have at least a week of data, you can then determine how much of their schedule is spent doing specific tasks. From there, you have the option to make graphs, reports, and presentations that the OT department can use to advocate for further staffing.
For an example of a time study template, see this form created by school nurses.
Create a Piece of Adaptive Equipment
Have you noticed a need for adaptive equipment with any of the students on your caseload? The next time you do, consider fabricating this equipment instead of ordering it! Some specific ideas you may want to consider include alternative writing utensils, styluses, slant boards, devices that assist in holding an item, specialized seating, modified utensils, wheelchair accessories, and equipment for accessing computers/technology. But really, get creative, analyze the needs on your caseload, and see what gaps you may be able to fill!
Prepare an In-Service for Teachers or OT Staff
In-services are some of the best ways to advocate for OT in the school system. You could do a presentation on a wide variety of topics teachers would benefit from, like social-emotional regulation or executive function. Or, if you’re working within a large OT department, consider doing a presentation just for them on new research and evidence-based practice. Better yet, survey staff and ask what topics they’d most like to learn more about. Consider holding this presentation on a PD day, at a staff/department meeting, or during a lunch & learn.
Get OT More Involved with RtI/MTSS
Response to Intervention (RtI) or Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) are global processes used throughout school districts. School-based OTs have huge potential to be involved in these processes! As always, check with district leadership to gain clarification on RtI policies are procedures specific to the district, but here are some ideas to get started:
Tier 1 RtI – All Students
- OT provides in-service to teachers on various OT strategies
- OT runs a fine motor center in all kindergarten classes
Tier 2 RtI – Targeted Group
- OT works with a small group of students identified by teachers as needing extra support
Tier 3 RtI – Intensive, Individual
- OT may make highly specific strategies for a student based on data collected by general education
Discuss these different tiers with your fieldwork supervisor, and see what programs you can help support or expand as part of your project!
I hope these ideas were helpful! When you decide what you do for your project, I would love to have you share it in my Facebook group all about school OT.
Looking to take your learning even further? My course, The Dynamic School OT, is the perfect primer for students who are about to embark on a Level 2 fieldwork in the schools. We’ll take an in-depth look at evaluation, appropriate interventions, IEP meetings, how to manage difficult situations, and much more. Click here to learn more!