Curriculum Design

Philosophy of the Curriculum

The philosophy that guides this program is represented by a conceptual model that depicts an educational process designed to facilitate the combination and integration of knowledge, attitudes, and skills required of occupational therapists in all areas of practice, education, and research.

From the fund of universal knowledge, the occupational therapy program targets four strands of learning relevant to occupational therapy practice:

  • Knowledge Base - Course content within this strand addresses the profession's various sources of knowledge, its diverse methods of acquiring and testing knowledge, and its rich and confluent methods of inquiry. The profession's knowledge base is foundational to effective and evidence-based occupational therapy practice.
  • Personal and Professional Competence - Course content within this strand addresses therapeutic use of self and groups, competence in moral and culturally sensitive approaches, and management practices that are both ethical and fiscally responsible. Learning experiences include personal reflection and interaction within interpersonal and professional realms. Personal and professional competence is foundational to compassionate and client-centered practice.
  • Interventions - Course content within this strand provides guidelines and strategies that assure best practice in empowering others to participate meaningfully in their roles and environments. Learning experiences include mastery of the profession's methods of addressing occupational challenges through: 1) evaluation, 2) treatment, 3) measurement of outcomes, and 4) documentation of services. OT interventions involve a theory-driven problem-solving process that taps the dynamics present among person, environment, and occupation.
  • Synthetic Application - Course content within this strand requires synthesis of the knowledge base of occupational therapy, personal and professional competence, and practice of interventions. Learning experiences are highly applied academic, clinical, or community-based and require ever-increasing mastery of the knowledge, values, and skills that characterize an occupational therapist. Synthetic application is confluent, self-directed, and responsive to the ever-changing demands of practice.

These curricular strands reflect the balance of knowledge, content, and action processes that are vital to effective practice. Although initially considered as distinct, the four stands of learning merge in a learning process that moves students through increasing levels of comprehension, application, synthesis, and critical thought.

In addition to promoting increasingly advanced levels of understanding, the educational approach in this program is designed to simulate the challenges and opportunities that characterize occupational therapy practice. Three constructs are central to this approach:

  • Occupation - "Groups of activities and tasks of everyday life, named, organized, and given value and meaning by individuals and a culture. Occupation is everything people do to occupy themselves, including looking after themselves (self-care), enjoying life (leisure), and contributing to the social and economic fabric of their communities (productivity)" (Law, Polatojko, Baptiste, & Townsend, 1997, p. 34).
  • Self-direction - An explicit course of thought, feeling, or action that moves one toward realization of the individual and communal self.
  • Confluence - The integration or flowing together of cognition, affect, and experience; the integration of the processes of generation, dissemination, and application of knowledge in all areas of practice. "Confluence is an integrative metaphor, philosophy, and approach that together enfranchise the affective elements of human potential, so often disregarded" (Peloquin, 2002, p. 71).

The above constructs serve as guiding principles that structure the course of study, shape interpersonal interactions, and convey the uniqueness of this curriculum. The occupation, self-direction, and confluence are central to the learning process of the occupational therapy student and to effective practice by the occupational therapy practitioner.

The student who commits to this program of study will, as a consequence of engaging in its educational process, develop a capacity to generate, apply, and disseminate knowledge about occupational therapy and occupational science, thus contributing to the body of universal knowledge in the following ways:

  • Knowledge Generation - Engagement in scholarly activity that contributes to the universe of knowledge.
  • Knowledge Dissemination - Communication and promotion of knowledge about occupational science through various methods and venues and to diverse populations.
  • Knowledge Application - Use of knowledge about occupation for the enhancement of societal health and the enrichment of professional practice.

These professional actions relative to knowledge are outcomes of the educational process. The novice professional who graduates from this program will demonstrate the confluence of knowledge, attitudes, and skills that are required for practice in ever-changing environments. Graduates will be known for their capacity to be self-directed, occupation-centered, and reflective about their own actions and the evidence that supports best practice. Those who employ the program's graduates will cite competence and compassion as their hallmark characteristics.