College of Education and Rehabilitation
Occupational Therapy Department
OT Program Philosophy, Design and Themes
The philosophy behind our Occupational Therapy programs
The Salus Occupational Therapy program builds on the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) philosophical base, emphasizing the concept of occupation in its pedagogy and curriculum. The philosophical base of occupational therapy as stated by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) is:
Occupations are activities that bring meaning to the daily lives of individuals, families, and communities and enable them to participate in society.All individuals have an innate need and right to engage in meaningful occupations throughout their lives. Participation in these occupations influences their development, health and well-being across the lifespan. As such, participation in meaningful occupation is a determinant of health.
Occupations occur within diverse social, physical, cultural, personal, temporal, or virtual contexts. The quality of occupational performance and the experience of each occupation are unique in each situation due to the dynamic relationship between factors intrinsic to the individual, the contexts in which the occupation occurs, and the characteristics of the activity. The focus and outcome of occupational therapy are individuals’ engagement in meaningful occupations that support their participation in life situations.
Occupational therapy practitioners conceptualize occupations as both a means and an end to therapy. That is, there is therapeutic value in occupational engagement as a change agent, and engagement in occupations is also the ultimate goal of therapy.
Occupational therapy is based on the belief that occupations may be used for health promotion and wellness, remediation or restoration, health maintenance, disease and injury prevention, and compensation/adaptation. The use of occupation to promote individual, community, and population health is the core of occupational therapy practice, education, research, and advocacy.”
American Occupational Therapy Association, (2011)
Consistent with the AOTA philosophical base, the Salus Occupational Therapy degree programs subscribe to certain beliefs about the nature of human beings and their interaction with the world and their environment. These beliefs are informed by the philosophical traditions of humanism, pragmatism and phenomenology.
As a philosophical and psychological framework, humanism is the view that humans are responsible for seeking out knowledge and for creating meaning in their own lives. This is important for occupational therapy, which focuses on how individuals create meaning through daily tasks and activities, and how these activities can help individuals adapt to and recover from illness and injury. In particular, humanism empowers individuals to play an active role in improving their lives, rather than understanding themselves as passively affected by events, and encourages a client-centered practice (Stein & Cutler, 2002). Accordingly, occupational therapy outcomes are positive to the extent that both practitioners and clients play an engaged, active role in the therapy process.
Pragmatism is a philosophical tradition attributable to C. S. Peirce, William James, John Dewey, and others. The fundamental idea of pragmatism is often summarized in the sentence, “Truth is what works,” which is excerpted from James’ description of pragmatism. This means that what we know about things is a product of what effects they have, and that intelligent practice takes into account things we have learned pragmatically. In other words, theory and practice are inseparable. According to pragmatism, we develop theories by seeing what works, and then we apply these theories in practice, modifying them to make them better each time.
At its most basic level, phenomenology is the study of experience. According to phenomenologists, we can learn important truths about life and the nature of reality by analyzing our lived experiences. Additionally, part of the phenomenological approach is recognizing the importance of context in our interactions with the world and recognizing that this context is part of what makes us who we are. In the sciences, phenomenology is an approach where practitioners attempt to arrive at understandings by asking what is common to and implied by others’ descriptions of their experiences. It is important for occupational therapists to understand the phenomenological approach in order to tailor practice to individual clients by understanding how clients perceive their experiences and how they use those perceptions to construct meaning (Turpin, 2008).
|Abbreviated Headings||Foundational||Basic Tenets||Theoretical Perspectives||Screening, Evaluation and Referral||Intervention Plan|
|Context of Service Delivery||Management of OT Services||Research||Professional Ethics, Values & Responsibilities||Fieldwork Education Level I & 2||Doctoral Practicum|
|*Based on the 2006 Accreditation Standards for a Doctorate--Degree--Level Educational Program for the Occupational Therapist|
Occupational Therapy Curricular Design
The design of the curriculum is based on professional standards, essential questions, enduring understandings, key performance tasks, and rubrics for assessment. Within this structure, we emphasize four curricular themes that represent the principal building materials of the model and insure consistency throughout the curriculum as well as a trajectory for curricular growth and change.
The programs’ curriculum design uses McTigh & Wiggins (2005) 3-stage backward design framework called Understanding by Design (UbD). This design is “backward” because it starts with consideration of content standards and performance standards such as those identified in the OT accreditation standards for educational programs for the occupational therapist. This design provides a framework to identify and explore essential questions and enduring understandings relevant to occupational therapy education.
Enduring understandings are used to apply knowledge and skill effectively in new situations, to make inferences, and to grasp connections. Understandings are viewed as the results of inference – the developing and testing of ideas by learners, with teacher assistance – culminating in ideas that seem useful and illustrative to the learner (2011, Wiggins & McTighe)
Essential questions are thought-provoking questions that foster inquiry, meaning-making, and generalization of learning. They push us to look for familiar patterns, connect ideas, and consider useful strategies when faced with novel challenges. An essential question helps the learner achieve greater focus, understanding, and efficacy (2011, Wiggins & McTighe)
Description of Curricular Themes
The following curricular themes were established to meet current occupational therapy educational standards and provide consistency throughout the curriculum. The themes are used to focus our educational community on the essential questions underlying occupational therapy as a profession and as a practice and to provide structures and rubrics for assessment of learning and reflection on learning.
These curricular themes represent overarching understandings and overarching essential questions underlying the curriculum. All four of the curricular themes are introduced in semester one during Foundations of Occupational Therapy and all themes are revisited in the Capstone Course, Fieldwork II and the Directed Independent Study. The Professional Portfolio is a key method of assessment used in the curriculum as an organizational structure for students to track and reflect on their learning across the curriculum and is structured using the curricular themes.
The first theme concerns the impact of occupational therapy and inclusion of this theme helps to shape how students perceive healthcare outcomes. An emphasis on outcomes generalizes across the curriculum starting with applied and behavioral sciences where students begin to differentiate biomedical outcomes from functional outcomes and culminating in Advanced Clinical Reasoning where narrative and ethical analysis are used to guide clinical judgment and lead to occupation-based outcomes assessment.
This theme is also embedded into Theoretical Perspectives where students examine historical and current occupational theories, models of practice, and frames of reference and consider the outcomes implicit in each theory.
- Occupational science is the body of knowledge that informs and can demonstrate the efficacy of our practice. It is the essence of the field’s knowledge and directs our understanding of health care outcomes research;
- Our central concern is for occupation in human life;
- We have a unique contribution to make in the measurement of functional outcomes, especially those based in specific contexts of daily life;
- We embrace science, including the scholarship underlying humanistic and holistic perspectives; and
- The use of science-based knowledge is guided by our time-honored values, demonstrating our power in meeting societal needs.
Reasoned Clinical Judgment emphasizes the importance of critical thinking and problem solving in occupational therapy practice. This theme includes critical analysis and evidence-based practice taught in semester one and is subsequently reinforced in each Practice Course. Students learn to understand that this type of analysis requires a balanced approach that may include multiple methods of inquiry. Importantly, reasoned clinical judgment is reinforced during Fieldwork II.
- Occupational therapists have a unique and profound understanding about the occupational nature of the human being, and this understanding empowers our professional identity and informs our critical thinking;
- Our course of study is interdisciplinary in nature, and occupation is defined as a multidimensional concept that requires knowledge from the sociological, biological, and behavioral sciences to be understood and explained;
- Reasoned clinical judgment requires application of scientific knowledge; and there are multiple methods of inquiry that inform our thinking including quantitative and qualitative approaches.
The third theme concerns the relationship of occupation to health and wellness, society’s recognition of the value of occupation, and the understanding of occupational therapy that results from this perceived value. Therefore, students will understand that:
- More and more people are recognizing the value of occupation to health and wellness, and this increases consumer demand for occupational therapy;
- As societies change, the occupational needs of individuals and groups change as well, leading to opportunities for application of our profession in emerging and non-traditional venues of practice;
- To better serve the needs of our clients (persons, organizations, and populations), multiple levels of entry-level educational programs are essential, and a succinct and comprehensive definition of the Doctor of Occupational Therapy is needed.
The fourth and final theme identifies the leadership roles and responsibilities essential to success in occupational therapy, including leadership in practice, education, and health policy. Therefore, students will understand that:
- The government has a significant role in the reimbursement and regulation of occupational therapy;
- Leadership in policy making bodies and advocacy for our consumers are essential components of our ability to enact change that will benefit society;
- The internet and related technologies empower both unity and leadership required for the profession to receive reimbursement for our unique contribution to meeting societal needs.
These themes guide the questions we ask and provide greater focus, understanding, and efficacy when dealing with new challenges. Ideally, the themes guide students’ future understandings and are used to guide and organize all learning.