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Fieldwork Procedures

Fieldwork Placement Assignment Process

  • Student assignment of placements is carried out through a computer-assisted process involving student preferences, program requirements, and previously approved student special consideration requests. Although efforts are made to place students in their preferred practice areas and/or geographical areas, it is not always possible to do this. The Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy reserves the right to place students in specific facilities/areas of therapy in order to meet individual students’ learning needs and provide students with an appropriate balance of fieldwork education experiences. Students must be prepared to attend placement at any fieldwork organization within the University of Toronto catchment area including:

    • Toronto (downtown and all suburbs)

    • Peel Region (Brampton, Mississauga)

    • Durham Region (Ajax, Whitby, Pickering)

    • York Region (Aurora, Central York Region, Maple, Markham, Newmarket, Richmond Hill, South West York Region, South East York Region, Stouffville, Thornhill, Vaughan)

  • Students who would like to complete Fieldwork 2, 3, or 4 out of the University of Toronto catchment area must fill in the appropriate forms and submit them to the fieldwork office prior to announced deadlines. See section entitled, ‘Placement Requests Outside the University of Catchment Area’ for further information.

  • A mandatory student pre-placement meeting is arranged by the University Fieldwork Instructor to discuss course-specific objectives and issues and placement offerings as well as to review general fieldwork policies and procedures.

  • For Fieldwork 2, 3 and 4, students will be asked to complete a web-based survey to communicate their fieldwork preferences to the fieldwork instructors. Any information the students would like to be taken into account (e.g., access to a vehicle, etc.) during placement matching should be included within this survey. Students must complete and submit a Request for Special Consideration Form for any medical information to be considered during placement matching (See Appendix G). Please note that for the Introductory Fieldwork Experience no preferences will be submitted.

  • Students who have applied for out-of-catchment placements (national or international) will be instructed regarding submission of preferences and participation in the placement match if their placement has not been finalized (e.g. Placement Agreement signed and permission to proceed given by the Directory of Clinical Education or the Fieldwork Course Instructor). If, by four to six weeks prior to the beginning of placement, the out-of-catchment placement has not been finalized, the student will be required to stay in the University of Toronto catchment area and will be matched to an unfilled placement.

  • The matching of student to placement offer is carried out through a computer-assisted process (see ‘Fieldwork Selection and Assignment’ for further detail). A match to one of the student’s preferred practice areas or geographic locations is desirable but cannot be guaranteed.

  • After the placement matching process is completed, an email will be sent to each student to indicate the placement to which they have been assigned.

  • No exchange of placements between students is allowed.

  • Once the placement list is finalized, information regarding the student placement assignment will be emailed by the university to the participating facilities. Students will be copied on this email.

  • Students are required to write an “Introductory” letter to the placement facility by the date specified by the University Fieldwork Instructor. For details of suggested content for the letter, please see ‘Pre-placement Communication with Fieldwork Facilities’ within this fieldwork manual.

  • If a placement is cancelled after a student has selected it, the student will be notified by the Fieldwork Office and another placement will be assigned.

Factors Related to Fieldwork Placement Assignment

Students must be prepared to travel to any fieldwork facility within the Toronto catchment area to attend their placement. The University of Toronto catchment area includes facilities in areas outside of Toronto, such as Brampton, Mississauga, York Region, and Whitby, as outlined in the introduction to the ‘Overview of Fieldwork Placement Process’.

In order to ensure that students receive a variety of placement opportunities and to allow all students to have fair access to all facilities, students will only be allowed to do one placement within the same facility. For the purposes of this policy, organizations that have multiple campuses may be considered separate. This policy does not apply to the Introductory Fieldwork Experience placements. In other words, students are allowed to have a second placement at the same facility where they had their Introductory Fieldwork placement.

Students who wish to have a second placement at a facility outside of the core Toronto area may be able to do so and should consult the Director of Clinical Education or the Fieldwork Course Instructor with such a request.

Student Contact with Non-assigned Placement Sites

Unless communicating with a fieldwork site after being matched to that site, students are prohibited from contacting any Canadian fieldwork sites or clinicians to arrange observation opportunities or to solicit a fieldwork placement. Any such arrangements will not be honoured. The Director of Clinical Education, the Fieldwork Course Instructors, and the Fieldwork Administrative Assistant are responsible for coordinating and liaising with all fieldwork facilities. This rule (that applies to students in all Canadian OT programs) is put in place so that our fieldwork sites are not inundated with individual student requests and applies to any local, provincial, or national fieldwork site. Students are also prohibited from contacting other Canadian university fieldwork coordinators regarding out-of-catchment placements.

Travel Allowance

In-catchment Placement Travel Allowance

Students placed at community fieldwork sites which require a vehicle, are eligible to apply for a car allowance. Students are eligible for this car allowance if the fieldwork placement site within the University of Toronto catchment area specifies in the fieldwork description that the student ‘requires’ a vehicle for travel during the placement.

Please note that out-of-catchment placements within Canada are not eligible for a car allowance.

International Fieldwork Travel Allowance

The International Fieldwork Travel Allowance is available to support students who are engaging in international fieldwork placements during Fieldwork 2, Fieldwork 3, or Fieldwork 4. Each student participating in an international fieldwork placement will be given up to $1000 regardless of whether the placement is an exchange, student-initiated, or an International Centre for Disability and Rehabilitation (ICDR) placement. Allowable expenses include airfare to and from the placement destination, accommodations while on placement (not including food) and preceptor fees if applicable, up to a maximum of $1000. The eligibility criteria for this international fieldwork travel allowance are as follows:

• The student must be approved by the International Fieldwork Coordinator to undertake this placement
• The student must submit the international fieldwork application, including reference letters.
• The student must meet all preparation requirements, e.g. attend the mandatory Safety Abroad meeting and any other mandatory meetings.
• The student’s fieldwork site must have a valid Placement Agreement with the University of Toronto

Please see Appendix K for further details of this allowance.

Travel Allowance Process

Travel Allowance: Students must complete a “Travel Allowance Request Form” (see Appendix I) to request a car allowance and submit this form to the Fieldwork Administrative Assistant at their respective campus for approval three weeks prior to the start of placement.

Once placement is completed, students must submit a log of Google Maps that shows calculation of daily mileage and/or parking receipts to the Fieldwork Administrator. Students will then complete a second form that will be given to them at that time. As part of this form, students must declare that they did not receive any funding from your fieldwork placement site for travel.

For extenuating financial circumstances, please contact the Director of Clinical Education. Also, please note, even if mileage calculation is more than the maximum allowance, students will not receive any extra payment than the maximum allowable amount.

Eligible mileage includes trips from home directly to client, from facility to client, from client to facility, and from client to client. Trips from home to facility or from client to home or facility to home are NOT eligible. Gas receipts are not to be submitted. Google Maps mileage is the only thing used to calculate amount of re-imbursement based on mileage. Original receipts for parking costs can be submitted.

Please note that Travel Allowance will be distributed after submission of all necessary receipts and completion of all forms. Reimbursement will not occur until several weeks after placement has ended due to cheque processing time.

Please see Appendix J for the International Fieldwork Travel Allowance process.

Preceptor Pre-placement Information

Prior to each placement, pre-placement information is sent out to all facility Fieldwork Coordinators who forward it on to the fieldwork preceptors. Curriculum issues are discussed in addition to specific objectives for the placement and evaluation procedures. Powerpoint slides and the Fieldwork Course Outline are attached to the email and are also posted on the OS&OT Fieldwork Website for easy access by preceptors and facility Fieldwork Coordinators. Other preceptor resources are available within this website.

Student Communication with Assigned Placement Site

Pre-Placement Communication: Introductory Email

All students are expected to write an introductory email to the facility to which they have been assigned a fieldwork learning experience.

Students will be copied on the confirmation email to the facility regarding the student match and so in that way will have the contact name and email addresses of the person to whom the introductory email should be written. In the case of a role-emerging placement, the student must contact both the on-site contact and the off-site (Occupational Therapist) preceptor. 

Students must use their University of Toronto email account for all correspondence with sites as emails to facilities from gmail and hotmail may be automatically filtered into junk mail folders.

The purpose of the introductory email is to provide information to the facility in order for them to plan more effectively for the student’s placement and for the student to understand how to best prepare for the placement. The letter should summarize the student’s previous fieldwork or other relevant experiences, identify personal strengths and outline specific interests related to the placement. Any questions the student may have regarding dress code, health requirements, criminal record check and any required readings prior to the commencement of the fieldwork placement should be addressed in this email. Students are also encouraged to inquire as to how they can best prepare for the placement, i.e. suggested readings, etc. Current information regarding fieldwork placement sites is obtained and maintained by the Fieldwork Office and is made available to the students via the fieldwork Quercus websites. Students are required to read all information pertaining to their assigned facility prior to writing the introductory email.

It is the responsibility of the student to e-mail the introductory letter to the facility Fieldwork Coordinator contact approximately three or four days after receiving the Confirmation email or as directed by the University Fieldwork Instructor.

Communication During Placement

Students should ensure that they meet regularly with their preceptor to review expectations and progress toward fulfillment of placement objectives.

Tips for Successful Communication with Preceptors

The first meeting

  • Come prepared with a list of topics and points you would like to discuss at the meeting and ensure that you cover them all or plan to address them at another scheduled meeting.

  • Be sure to discuss the curriculum, your general objectives for learning and the evaluation process.

  • Inform your preceptor of any personal concerns that may affect performance or attendance while on placement.

  • Discuss any previous experience or lack of experience specifically related to expectations for present fieldwork placement.

  • Establish an agreement of the level of responsibility you will incur throughout the placement.

  • Discuss your learning needs, goals and strategies for achieving these goals within your preceptor’s area of practice.

  • Discuss your expectations of placement and encourage your preceptor to share their expectations as well. Collaborate to ensure that common expectations for learning are established.

  • Establish a schedule of future meetings.

Communicating with your preceptor

  • Present yourself as:

    • Friendly, yet professional

    • Respectful

    • Enthusiastic

    • Responsive

  • Be sensitive to the needs of others

  • Be honest and trustworthy

  • Ask appropriate questions as they surface

  • Do not become defensive; keep an open mind

  • Reflect with your preceptor, whether at a scheduled meeting or on the go. Verbalize your thought process, allowing the preceptor to understand how you are learning. They can then provide you with constructive feedback from their perspective.

  • Respect your preceptor’s schedule and responsibilities outside of your education and thus raise concerns at an appropriate time of day.

  • Ask your preceptor how they prefer to communicate (e.g. e-mail vs. phone call) and respect their preference.

  • Maintain continuous communication with your preceptor to ensure common expectations are maintained.

Meetings throughout the placement

  • Bring an agenda to the meeting; verify with your preceptor that the agenda is also appropriate for them.

  • Provide your preceptor with feedback, specifying how their teaching methods affect your learning experience. Remember to give positive and constructive feedback!

  • Ask your preceptor to provide you with feedback related to your learning objectives and discuss your perspective of your progress.

  • Refer to your learning objectives and collaborate with your preceptor to identify areas where future learning is needed. Create a plan for the following days which will accommodate your specific learning needs.

Providing and receiving feedback

  • Take care to deliver constructive feedback in a professional and sensitive manner.

  • When appropriate, provide your preceptor with constructive feedback promptly.

  • Provide honest feedback to the site as this will help to ensure the quality of the placement. This is often best done by completing and discussing the ‘Student Report on Fieldwork Placement’ form with your preceptor and the site.

  • Be prepared to discuss your feedback, with specific examples with your preceptor.

  • If your preceptor is vague when providing you with feedback, encourage them to provide details. This will help you to better understand your performance levels and areas needing improvement.

  • Listen carefully to feedback given to you and focus on areas of improvement.


  • Be prepared with basic conflict resolution strategies prior to the beginning of your placement. This will lower potential for conflict that may hinder your learning experience.

  • Ensure that your preceptor is aware of any potential for personal conflict related to the placement. Should a conflict arise due to personal issues, address this immediately to avoid negatively impacting your learning experience.

  • Attend to any early indicators of conflict to prevent exacerbation of any problems. Discuss any issues regarding placement with your preceptor immediately. If issues persist, refer to the Student Concern Flowchart in Appendix L of the Fieldwork Resource Manual to address further issues appropriately.

  • If you have questions around your preceptor’s practice, discuss this with the preceptor directly. Explain your concerns, giving specific examples. Listen carefully to your preceptor’s explanation. If speaking with your preceptor does not lower your concern refer to the Student Concern Flowchart in Appendix L of your Fieldwork Resource Manual in order to address the issue appropriately.

  • Address any conflict immediately to avoid jeopardizing your learning experience.

Placements with split supervision (1 student to 2 preceptors)

  • Early in the placement, meet with both preceptors to gain a clear understanding of how you will be supervised. Clarify each preceptor’s (as well as your) expectations of the placement. Guidelines and scheduled meetings should be determined at this point.

  • Express your learning needs early in the placement and determine with your preceptors how you can best address these needs with respect to their separate areas of practice.

  • Maintain clear communication with both preceptors throughout the placement and ensure that common expectations have remained or are collaboratively altered as necessary.

  • Schedule separate and joint meetings with your preceptors to ensure optimum communication and ensure that your concerns and comments are heard.

  • At mid-term, review any positive and negative aspects of the split preceptor experience. Encourage your preceptors to also express any concerns that they may have regarding the process. Maintain open communication in order to avoid unnecessary conflict.

  • Encourage both preceptors to provide you with an equal amount of feedback throughout the placement, as well as at the final evaluation. Remind preceptors that they must agree on mid-term and final marks on the CBFE-OT evaluation, although comments can differ.

This tip sheet was researched and compiled by Naomi Mitchell, MSc(OT) candidate and edited by Donna Barker, University Fieldwork Coordinator, June 2008

Recommended Readings

Alsop, A., & Ryan, S. (1996). Making the most of fieldwork education. Chapman & Hall: London.

Gaiptman, B. & Forma, L. (1991). Reflections on… The split placement model for fieldwork placements. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 58(2), 85-88.

Hogard, E., Ellis, R., Ellis, J., & Barker, C. (2005). Using a communication audit to improve communication on clinical placement in pre-registration nursing. Nurse Education Today, 25, 119-125.

Sinai, J., Tiberius, R.G., de Groot, J., Brunet, A., & Voore, P. (2001) Developing a training program to improve supervisor-resident relationships, step 1: Defining the types of issues. Teaching and Learning in Medicine, 13(2), 80-85.

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