Principles and Responsibilities

These guidelines are intended to ensure that each fieldwork experience provides excellent learning opportunities and resources and an optimum environment for learning.

Students acquire abilities and professional behaviors as well as new knowledge while engaged in fieldwork education. Students, fieldwork educators, onsite fieldwork coordinators, university professors and university fieldwork coordinators are expected to collaborate in linking fieldwork experiences to what students have learned in class. Therefore, it is important to share a common vision for fieldwork education.

The fieldwork experience should:

  • Be a collaborative learning experience among students, clients, fieldwork educators, onsite fieldwork coordinators and university programs;
  • Be mutually beneficial to students and fieldwork educators;
  • Be accepted as an essential part of professional growth for both students and fieldwork educators;
  • Occur in a positive learning environment;
  • Consider the teaching methods and learning styles of both students and fieldwork educators;
  • Consider students’ learning objectives in relation to their professional development within the context of the fieldwork environment;
  • Support students to account for their learning;
  • Enable students to link theory with practice;
  • Enable students to take an active role within the site;
  • Promote satisfaction for both students and fieldwork educators regarding the fieldwork experience;
  • Support fieldwork educators preferences for student level, timing and supervision model to facilitate an educational fit;
  • Occur anywhere the roles and functions of an occupational therapist can be developed and integrated.

Responsibilities of Fieldwork Education Partners

(Primarily students, fieldwork educators and university fieldwork coordinators)

Student Responsibilities

  • Take responsibility for their learning experience and the direction of that experience in partnership with fieldwork educators, onsite fieldwork coordinators, university professors and fieldwork coordinators;
  • Set personal and professional goals before the beginning of the fieldwork experience. Review and adjust them throughout the placement;
  • Do preparatory readings before and during the fieldwork experience;
  • Uphold the Codes of Ethics at all times (CAOT, provincial regulatory body, fieldwork site, university program);
  • Comply with site and university policies and procedures;
  • Increase their understanding of and promote the roles and functions of occupational therapists;
  • Increase their understanding of and respect the roles and functions of other team members;
  • Learn how occupational therapists contribute to the service delivery team;
  • Increase their understanding of the systems in which occupational therapists practice;
  • Develop competencies for the application of the occupational therapy process;
  • Develop increased confidence and competence in their area of practice of occupational therapy;
  • Develop an interest in one or several areas of occupational therapy to guide them in designing their learning plans and career path;
  • Communicate with the university fieldwork coordinator before or at mid-term if they encounter fieldwork challenges;
  • Provide feedback to supervisors based on their fieldwork learning experience.

Fieldwork Educator (Preceptor) Responsibilities

  • Become familiar with the university fieldwork education program (learning objectives, educational tools, fieldwork evaluation tool, expected performance of student depending on placement level) and with the supervision process;
  • Offer a welcoming environment, a comprehensive orientation and provide space for student use, as available within the site’s resources;
  • Act as a role model for students;
  • Offer a positive and comprehensive learning environment to enable student development within the core competencies required for occupational therapy practice;
  • Clearly inform students of what is expected of them, appropriately grade responsibilities and expectations and be available to students to offer appropriate supervision;
  • Offer regular and timely feedback based on student performance, including recommendations for improvement;
  • Assist students to develop a good understanding of their “professional growth” and of the remaining learning objectives by allowing and promoting time for guided reflection;
  • Meet with students to discuss and evaluate their performance at the mid-term and end of the fieldwork education experience;
  • Communicate with the university fieldwork coordinator before or during the mid-term evaluation if the student encounters significant challenges;
  • Provide to university fieldwork coordinators and students a current Fieldwork Site Profile (FS-PRO): Learning objectives and Resources.

University Fieldwork Coordinator Responsibilities

  • Assist students to develop a good understanding of their “professional growth” and of their learning objectives by offering fieldwork preparation (e.g. orientation and resources) and debriefing sessions (e.g. integration of theory with practice) to students;
  • Provide fieldwork educators with orientation and educational resources related to the university fieldwork education program and the supervision process;
  • Coordinate offers and requests for placements and whenever possible match students and sites according to students’ academic and fieldwork profiles and interests;
  • Enable students to make suitable choices in selecting fieldwork settings;
  • Offer ongoing support and problem solving to students and fieldwork educators in dealing with student learning challenges;
  • Recognize fieldwork partners who contribute time and expertise in supervising students;
  • Provide sites with a fieldwork agreement, either temporary or long term, describing the liability and responsibilities of each party;
  • Ensure students are provided with appropriate liability coverage;
  • Regularly assess the content and quality of supervision given and provide recommendations to fieldwork sites and feedback to fieldwork educators.

Fieldwork Site Profile (FS-PRO): Learning Opportunities and Resources, Partnership Process and Quality Improvement

University fieldwork coordinators require information about fieldwork education sites regarding opportunities and resources for student learning. The main goal of this process is to promote excellence in fieldwork education among partners as well as to fulfill the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT) requirements* for Academic Accreditation.

The information included in the FS-PRO will assist university fieldwork coordinators and students in making informed decisions about placement selection. They may achieve a balanced student fieldwork profile while meeting their learning needs.

This information will also be used for the partnership renewal process by university fieldwork coordinators.

*For example, therapists must have at least one year of professional experience prior to supervising students.

Nature of the Information Required

Fieldwork Educators (Preceptors), with their colleagues and manager, are expected to provide information about:

  • Site and contact information;
  • Characteristics of occupational therapy services;
  • Learning opportunities and resources;
  • Administrative resources;
  • Amenities;
  • Site requirements for students;
  • Messages to students.

When available, supporting material about the fieldwork site, the various programs and the occupational therapy services offered should be attached to the profile.

Frequency and Process of Information Updates

To ensure the highest levels of quality in fieldwork education, the following quality improvement steps are recommended:

  • University fieldwork coordinator will review all FS-PRO documents at a minimum every 5 years;
  • University fieldwork coordinator will communicate with each site’s contact person;
  • The FS-PRO update will be requested within a reasonable timeframe, which will be determined by both the site’s contact person and the university fieldwork coordinator;
  • Once the information has been reviewed, the university fieldwork coordinator and the site’s contact person will provide each other with feedback;
  • A timeframe will be set between the university and the site if improvements are to be made to ensure the best quality of the fieldwork experience for students.

The FS-PRO will be the primary continuous quality improvement method. As an additional means of ensuring quality, it is recommended that:

  • Students provide the site with feedback at the end of every placement;
  • Student s complete a written “Evaluation of Placement” form which is submitted to the university fieldwork coordinator;
  • University fieldwork coordinators compile student feedback and share it with the fieldwork sites at the time of the site-university partnership renewal.

Depending upon specific needs and programs developed, it is anticipated that each university will be responsible for designing and implementing additional continuous quality improvement methods that are deemed appropriate for their region.

National and International Documents to Review

Association of Canadian Occupational Therapy Regulatory Organizations. (2000). Essential Competencies for Occupational Therapists in Canada. ACOTRO.

Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists. (1989). Proceedings of the Occupational Therapy National Fieldwork Symposium. CAOT.

Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists. (1996). Code of Ethics. CAOT.

Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists. (1998). Academic Credentialing Standards and Self-Study Guide. CAOT.

Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists & Association of Canadian Occupational Therapy University Programs. (1999). Fieldwork Education Site Approval Program. CAOT/ACOTUP.

Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists. (2002). Profile of Occupational Therapy Practice in Canada. CAOT.

World Federation of Occupational Therapists. (2002). Revised Minimum Standards for the Education of Occupational Therapists. WFOT.

Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists. (2007). Profile of Occupational Therapy Practice in Canada. CAOT.


The UFCC has used elements of the University of Ottawa, School of Rehabilitation Science, Profile of the Clinical Facility, in the development of the FS-PRO.

The UFCC would like to thank our fieldwork partners across Canada for their contributions in reviewing these guidelines.

Further Documents

Canadian Framework for Ethical Occupational Therapy Practice (CAOT, 2006)

CAOT Position Statement Clinical Practice Guidelines: Implication for Occupational Therapy (2007)


Department of Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy

Fieldwork Manual