Objective. The purpose of this study was to test the validity of a model of professional development that was based on occupational adaptation. This model proposes that students have three classes of adaptive response behaviors available for use: primitive, transitional, and mature.

Method. Eight Level II fieldwork students were assigned to the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Dallas, Texas, for 12 weeks. Experienced fieldwork supervisors at the medical center developed a taxonomy of behavioral statements consistent with the developmental model’s three classes of adaptive response behaviors. This taxonomy was converted to a student log in which supervisors rated the frequency with which the Level II fieldwork students exhibited these behaviors.

Results. The patterns of behaviors, which were represented graphically for each of the students, generally supported the predictions of the model. Students demonstrated all three classes of behaviors. Primitive and transitional behaviors emerged when the students experienced increased or unusual demands, even when the students’ modal behaviors was mature. Students temporarily reverted to lower level behaviors when faced with situations that they perceived as too difficult or as too unfamiliar.

Conclusion. This model of professional development facilitates an understanding of students’ development during their transition from classroom to practice setting. Generalization to other settings will require validation of the student log.

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