Lab4Living OT Placement students’ Researcher Blog: The Reflective journey

OT student placements

Three Occupational Therapy (OT) students at Sheffield Hallam University have been given the opportunity to undertake an extended scope placement within Lab4Living in the Art and Design Research Centre.
The purpose of their placement, agreed in conjunction with Lab4Living’s Dr Claire Craig and Helen Fisher, is to develop an intervention that fosters and enables the communication of challenging topics through tangible objects. Through this, the aim is to enhance discourse and dialogue around issues which are difficult to conceptualise.

To begin this endeavour, the students started a five-day design challenge to create a reflective toolkit. This time-limited challenge culminated in a two hour concept-to-product maker session this week with design consultants from Design Futures Packaging in Sheffield Hallam University.

This blog is a whistle stop tour of the journey taken by the placement students, Chloe Broughton, Jack Samways and Millie Pollitt, second year BSc Occupational Therapy students.


Making with Lab4Living

Making with Lab4Living

Phase one: Problem Formation, Clear Ideas and The Double Diamond

Serendipity had our backs on this challenge as on our first official day, we had the opportunity to gather crucial information from potential stake holders: health and social care students on a visit to the design lab! Great, a captive audience! We were able to ascertain the challenges that these student professionals face when reflecting in practice, contributing to our conceptualisation of the problem identification phase of designing. With influences from both the Double Diamond Design Model and the Clear Ideas process, we undertook an idea generation phase as a response to the challenges identified. This is the part of the process where the sky is the limit and we were able to be really creative with ideas our solutions.

Essential items: post it notes, marker pens, imagination, biscuits, tea, creativity and someone to keep us to task: that’s Jack!

Phase two: Define!

The next phase saw us defining our project and this took the form of writing a brief- a simple statement that we could return to at the end of the process to reflect back on whether we had met our aims. Here we noted our objectives, target audience, and essential checklist. This stage saw us synthesising our ideas into a coherent design with notions of imagery, metaphor and design elements in preparation to take to our packaging and design professionals. This process helped us to ascertain which ideas we had generated would work with our product and which ones might not.

Essential Items: marker pens and A3 paper, task delegation and creative and design principles oversight from our very talented supervisor Helen Fisher.

Phase 2: Define!

Phase 2: Define!

Phase three: Develop!

This phase we had identified the crucial components to our reflectors toolkit: the contents would include travel inspired artefacts that could be used in guiding the user through a process of reflection that is used in our practice as health professionals. In our work we employ skills and knowledge from broad disciplines from a biological, psychological, environmental, social and political perspective. We often work with high levels of complexity where reflection is one of the essential tools that allow us to navigate complex landscapes. The idea of a journey felt fitting with this terrain, as unlike other models depicted as circles or cycles, this felt as though it really captured the endeavour of reflection: a travelling experience with an as yet unknown destination.

We start our journey with a postcard and work with notions of unpacking emotional baggage to understand the sense behind complex work-based scenarios that we encounter in our practice. It wouldn’t be occupational therapy without the mug, complete with a bag of ‘reflectivi-tea’. This process, essential for bridging across domains, making sense of practice by standing on the shoulders of theory, policy, and the comprehensive education we undertake. We end our reflection with a set of skills and tools that we have learnt, we nod towards those things that we can let go of and have space to capture our action points for further learning or development.

We struggled to conceptualise how analysis could be conceived in this journey and, since this is a reflective journey for occupational therapists, we finally decided on the incorporation of the “PEOP” Map. This is a conceptual model that identifies the person, their ‘occupations’ and the environment in which they do these. Much like a SWOT analysis the user is invited to locate their reflection within this model with notions of what they may have brought intrinsically and the enablers, drivers, mediators and triggers in the environment that may have helped or hindered their experience. This is, of course, all mediated by the experience, what they were ‘doing’ that they are reflecting on, in this context it may be an interaction with a service user, colleague, an event in the course of their job role.

Essential items: more marker pens, paper, a trip to the shops to gather items such as a mug and a photo album.

Phase 4: Make!

Phase 4: Make!

Phase four: Make!

This part was by far the most exciting. Our Apprentice-style design challenge has us working with product design experts in a two-hour maker session. Chloe took the lead and expertly briefed our design team and within half an hour we had split off to get the physical product designed and built. Jack worked with Peter Macqueen, a structural packaging designer who was making the physical packaging, Chloe worked with Helen and designer Steve Battle on stickers and the post cards and Millie worked with a graphic designer and Director of Design Futures Packaging, John Kirkby on logo, Venn diagram and the ‘emotional baggage’. This process was the quick fire timed challenge that one would expect to see on ‘my pottery throw down’ or the ‘Great British Bake Off’ and two hours flew by in no time.

To say we were proud of our end product, the prototype of the ‘Reflective Journey’, would be an understatement. The process was incredible and we all learned so much about how Lab4Living and Design Futures works.

Phase five: Deliver!

Our next stage is to undertake user testing with our target audience: OT students! We just so happen to have a group supervision session coming up where we will be able to see if the ‘Reflective Journey’ really works.

Phase 5: Deliver!

Phase 5: Deliver!