The curriculum for the Doctor of Occupational Therapy program at Wingate University was designed in accordance with the educational standards set forth by ACOTE, the AOTA Blueprint for Entry-Level Education (AOTA, 2010), The Occupational Therapy Practice Framework: Domain and Process, 3rd Edition (AOTA 2014), and the Framework for Educating Health Professionals to Address the Social Determinants of Health (National Academics of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine [NASEM], 2016). As such, the program “builds critical thinking through interprofessional, cross-sectional, and experiential learning opportunities” (NASEM, 2016, p. 2). The curriculum was developed in a subject-centered manner, emphasizing occupational therapy’s core subject of human occupation. While a wide variety of topics and skills are taught within the program, all topics and skills are implicitly and explicitly linked back to the core subject so that students can fully understand the connection between the topic/skill and occupation (Hooper et al., 2014; Hooper et al., 2015). The occupation-centered focus leads to students learning to see, listen, and reason through an occupational lens that epitomizes the core and distinct nature of the occupational therapy profession (Mitcham, 2014). The curriculum also draws upon the concept of competency-based education. This approach to education emphasizes what graduates must be able to demonstrate versus what straightforward knowledge they have gained (Jung et al., 2015). Therefore, students will be provided with multiple opportunities throughout the curriculum to practice skills they have attained in realistic settings through simulation, clinical affiliations (including four Level I Fieldwork opportunities), and laboratory experiences. The didactic portion of the curriculum concludes with a course focused on the students’ ability to demonstrate clinical competencies and knowledge required for entry-level practice. Lastly, the approach to education within the OTD program aligns with the Transformative Learning Theory, which asserts that adults learn best through critical reflection and dialogue therefore enabling them to build upon existing knowledge and attain new knowledge to facilitate autonomous thinking (Mezirow, 1997). This is accomplished through a student-centered approach in which the educators design learning opportunities that consider students’ learning styles, learning needs, and learning objectives, and that provide ample opportunities for guided and independent critical reflection. Such an approach to education will build lifelong learners, critically thinking reflective practitioners, and leaders who are prepared to address society’s occupation and health needs. To be consistent with the program’s philosophy on how students learn and with concepts of competency-based education and the Transformative Learning Theory, students will be evaluated through a variety of means including reflective papers; case study demonstrations and reports; laboratory/service learning experiences; exams/quizzes administered online, paper/pencil, or verbally; group or individual projects, presentations, or other assignments.
Five specific curricular threads are woven throughout the course content. The primary thread is occupational performance. This concept describes the performance of occupations, which are “all the things people want, need, or have to do, whether of physical, mental, social, sexual, political, or spiritual nature and [are] inclusive of sleep and rest” (Wilcock & Townsend, 2014, p. 542). Humans are occupational beings who are able to influence their health and well-being through occupational performance (AOTA, 2017a; Reilly, 1962). The primary aim of occupational therapy is to facilitate the engagement in and performance of those desired and needed occupations. Therefore, throughout the curriculum, each topic addressed will be done so through the consideration of how it affects or is affected by occupational performance.
Critical thinking/professional reasoning is “an ability or skill to make reasoned decisions or solve complex problems based on critical analysis of available evidence [and requires] identification of the problem, relevant data and information for this problem, analysis of those data, and an outcome or solution to the problem” (Rowles, Morgan, Burns, & Merchant, 2013, p. 29). Occupational therapy practitioners must rely on critical thinking/professional reasoning skills to fully assess a client’s barriers to and desires for occupational performance within the client’s context and without allowing personal biases, assumptions, and social norms to interfere (Robertson, Warrender, & Barnard, 2015). This type of deep thinking enables occupational therapists to develop strong therapeutic relationships with clients through the ability to articulate the process and components of planning, implementing, and assessing interventions (Unsworth & Baker, 2016). Students will be taught skills for developing critical thinking/professional reasoning skills and will be provided with scaffolded opportunities for critical reflection throughout the curriculum.
Evidence-based practice is the reliance upon a combination of the best available evidence, clinical expertise, client values, and client context to design and implement occupational therapy interventions (Straus, Glasziou, Richardson, & Haynes, 2011). The AOTA (2017b) Vision 2025 urges occupational therapists to act as evidence-based practitioners as a means of delivering effective and efficient clinical services. To become evidence-based practitioners, occupational therapists must be able to locate, access, critically appraise, and integrate evidence into practice. This process also relies upon the existence of research evidence. Therefore, students will learn about the importance of asking clinical questions, and seeking answers through the implementation of scholarship activities including but not limited to the design and implementation of a research study. Students will be granted opportunities to demonstrate their skills as a practice scholar and contribute to the profession’s body of evidence through publications, presentations, and other evidence-based projects.
The concept of servant leadership was established by Greenleaf (1991) as a way of leading that focuses on prioritizing others’ needs before one’s own. As such, servant leaders strive to facilitate personal growth and improved well-being of their followers. This intention is not unlike the desire of occupational therapists to maximize the well-being and occupational performance of their clients. Servant leadership is based upon empathy, trust, open communication, respect, emphasis on morals, and a true desire to serve others (Greenleaf, 1991). These characteristics are incorporated throughout the curriculum, especially within coursework that addresses establishing therapeutic relationships, communication, service learning opportunities, and leadership.
As occupational therapists, we believe that all human beings have the right to participate in desired meaningful occupations regardless of socioeconomic status, race, culture, physical environment, or other factors (AOTA, 2017a). This belief is also known as the concept of occupational justice. Oftentimes, components of a client’s context or environment prevent him/her from engaging in occupations of choice. Additionally, one’s culture has a strong influence on the occupations he/she deems meaningful and important. To fully advocate for and facilitate a client’s ability to engage in his/her preferred occupations, practitioners must be sensitive to cultural influences. Cultural responsiveness means more than just having an understanding of other cultures and forms of diversity. It requires that practitioners continuously explore, learn, reflect, and remain “open to the process of building mutuality with a client and to accepting that the cultural-specific knowledge one has about a group may or may not apply to the person you are treating” (Muñoz, 2007, p. 274). The concepts of occupational justice and cultural responsiveness are woven throughout the curriculum as part of the intervention process and outcomes of occupational therapy (AOTA, 2014).
*References available upon request by emailing