Promoting the integration of theory and practice by the use of a learning contract

Ruth Matheson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This qualitative study presents occupational therapy BSc students' perceptions of the value of learning contracts to promote the integration of theory and practice within a problem-based learning course. Focus groups, consisting of first- and third-year students, were used to generate data. Content analysis was carried out to establish common themes.

The main findings indicated that students use learning contracts within the academic field to structure their learning, identify knowledge and remain client-centred. Within the fieldwork setting, learning contracts were influenced by supervisory styles and the ability of the students to negotiate their learning needs. The key factor that promoted integration was negotiation, enhanced greatly when students were given the lead role as negotiator. Learning contracts were perceived as being of value in integrating theory and practice. Placements using group or long-arm (off-site) supervision were seen as making the best use of learning contracts.

Recommendations centre on the need for the continuing education of students, staff and clinicians on the process and benefits of using learning contracts to enhance development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)264 - 270
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • learning contract
  • problem-based learning
  • integration
  • negotiation


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