The philosophy of the Department of Occupational Therapy reflects the mission statement and philosophy of The College of St. Scholastica, the values of the occupational therapy profession, and the vision, mission and values of the faculty of the Occupational Therapy Entry-Level Master's Program (OT Program). The philosophy of the OT Program is also consistent with the Benedictine values, which promotes the importance of the individual and the worth of human life. These values inform the beliefs of the OT Program faculty.
The following faculty-held beliefs are foundational to our curriculum design, and our approach to the students and their learning.
The faculty believe health is both a value and a state of being that is personally and socially constructed. Because each person is a unique part of a larger community, influencing and being influenced by others, occupational therapists focus not only on individuals, but also the communities in which they live. Therefore, the faculty also believe people should be granted respect and treated with dignity, warmth and acceptance. Physical, mental and spiritual well-being depend on a balance in daily life and contexts that support healthy living. Responsibility for one's own personal health and wellness is a life-long process.
Occupation is defined as "activities and tasks of everyday life, named, organized, and given value and meaning by individuals and a culture" (Law, Steinwender, & Leclair, 1998). Participation in occupation is necessary for optimum functioning, to promote health, and as a means to prevent, remediate, and compensate for dysfunction. Occupational engagement facilitates adaptation to new and changing circumstances, and enhances a sense of well-being for all persons.
Occupational therapy is defined as "a profession concerned with promoting health and well-being through occupation" (World Federation of Occupational Therapy, 2004). Occupational therapists strive to understand the importance of an occupation to an individual, and analyze the physical, mental, and social components of that occupation. "The individual is a whole person, body and mind, in interaction with life tasks in the environment" (Kielhofner, 2009). Occupational therapists facilitate improved capability in the person, and then adapt the tasks and the environment, empowering the person to resume their occupations.
We acknowledge that all individuals have personal strengths and challenges that impact their ability to function in daily occupations. We also recognize that contexts (physical, cultural, social, personal, spiritual, temporal and virtual) (Commission on Practice, 2008), and changes in those contexts, as well as life transitions, influence occupational needs. Individuals are inherently motivated to participate in and live life to its fullest, thus enhancing their life satisfaction and sense of health and well-being.
The OT Program views clients as individuals, families, communities and populations. While the focus of occupational therapy practice has remained constant over time, the need for occupational therapists in more diverse practice settings is increasing. Occupational therapy clients come from diverse cultures and reflect an aging global population. Health care environments are changing. Understanding reimbursement systems, and how they impact client services, is key to advocating for, and providing services to best meet the needs of clients. Occupational therapists serve clients at local, regional, national and global levels in both traditional and emerging areas of practice.
The Centennial Vision of the American Occupational Therapy Association states "occupational therapy is a powerful, widely-recognized, science-driven and evidence-based profession, with a globally connected and diverse workforce meeting society's occupational needs" (American Occupational Therapy Association, 2006). Our role as educators is to mentor students toward realizing this vision.
The faculty continuously engage in focused assessment and analysis of the educational program to make reasoned decisions for curricular changes based on current best practices, policy changes and emerging practice areas that will affect the profession.
The faculty use various methods of teaching and assessment to accommodate students' individual learning styles. The faculty believe students need to be active participants in the learning process. Active learning promotes a contextual understanding and facilitates the ability to make the appropriate connections for meaningful application. Classroom, clinical, and community-based experiences are found throughout the curriculum. These experiences facilitate the ability of students to apply, analyze, synthesize and evaluate the material learned in the classroom (Bloom, 1956).
Not only do the faculty facilitate learning, they also serve as role models and mentors, challenging students to think critically and reflect on what they are learning. This process encourages transformation of students to become life-long learners of occupational therapy, a characteristic also modeled by the faculty. Together, faculty and students strive to promote not only their own personal and professional growth, but also the advancement of the profession of occupational therapy.
The faculty believe students come into the program well-prepared in the liberal arts and ready to apply this knowledge to the discipline of occupational therapy. Students are expected to be active, responsible and ethical in their learning process.
The faculty believe students need to develop an evidence-based understanding of occupation, and how performance, adaptation and self-actualization can be affected by physical, psychosocial, cognitive and developmental changes. Students learn to view clients holistically, with an awareness of demographic changes; consider contextual influences on occupational engagement; and respond to the rights, needs and satisfaction of clients. Through classroom, community and clinical experiences, students become practice-ready and capable of building intentional relationships with clients and colleagues.
The faculty view students as future leaders of the occupational therapy profession. This is fostered through an expectation of membership in student and professional organizations. Interdisciplinary experiences facilitate their ability to collaborate with members of other professions, as they learn the art of teamwork.
The College and Benedictine values remain remarkably unchanged, and are foundational to the OT Program values and beliefs. The OT Program's beliefs and values form the basis for curriculum design, delivery, assessment and directed change, and are periodically reviewed to ensure relevance with current professional practice. The OT Program philosophy continues to evolve and respond to changes in the profession.
American Occupational Therapy Association (2006). AOTA's centennial vision. Retrieved May 18, 2009 from http://www.aota.org/News/Centennial/Background/36516.aspx
Bloom, B.S. (Ed.). (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives, handbook I: Cognitive domain. New York: Longmans, Green.
College of St. Scholastica (2009). Values of the Benedictine heritage. Retrieved May 18, 2009 from http://www.css.edu/About/Benedictine-Roots/Mission-and-Values.html
Commission on Practice of The American Occupational Therapy Association (2008). Occupational therapy practice framework: Domain and process, 2nd edition. Bethesda, MD: The American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.
Kielhofner, G. (2009). The early development of occupational therapy practice. Conceptual Foundations of Occupational Therapy Practice (Edition 4). Philadelphia: F.A. Davis.
Law, M., Steinwender, S., & Leclair, L. (1998). Occupation, health, and well-being. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 65, 81-91.
World Federation of Occupational Therapy (2004). What is occupational therapy? Retrieved July 21, 2009 from http://www.wfot.org/information.asp