Objective. In the context of a group process course, occupational therapy students learned health promotion skills through working on personal wellness goals and leading community-based health promotion groups. The groups targeted topics such as smoking cessation, improving diet, reducing stress through yoga, meditation, tai chi chuan, ROM (Range of Motion) Dance, aerobics, and a variety of other activities.
Method. After identifying a personal wellness goal and developing it in a Wellness Awareness Learning Contract, each student used a Goal Attainment Scale (GAS) to predict an expected outcome for achieving the goal and to measure his or her progress toward attaining the goal. Students also used the GAS to measure progress in attaining group leadership skills within the community groups, which they outlined in a separate Group Skills Contract. Students kept weekly logs to foster reflective thinking, and the logs were used for interactive dialogue with the instructor. To further evaluate lifestyle change, students compared pretest and posttest scores on a Self-Assessment Scorecard, which surveyed six areas of health and human potential in body, mind, and spirit.
Results. Students monitored their own change process on both their personal health lifestyle goals and their group leadership skills while developing a richer appreciation of the dynamics of working for change with clients in community and traditional settings. Differences on the Self-Assessment Scorecard indicated improvement on two of the six scales for physical health and choices.
Conclusion. Students experienced firsthand the challenges of developing healthier lifestyles on the basis of their personal goals as well as through fostering group changes. The two GAS learning contracts provided them with concrete evidence of their growth and learning. This experience—embedded in the context of a group process course with a community service learning group practicum—provided most students with a positive initial experience with group leadership as they began to explore roles as agents for lifestyle and health change. Suggestions for expanding health promotion roles in practice in the changing health care environment are also examined.