The occupational therapy curriculum design can be conceptualized in three major domains: Core Knowledge, Occupation, and Leadership. The domains can be further separated into five threads of knowledge. These threads correspond to the distinguished features of the curriculum and identified as: Foundational Sciences, Lifespan Development, Fundamental Skills, Evidenced-Based Practice, and Professionalism. The domains and streams (i.e. threads) are operationalized as follows:
Core Knowledge: Knowledge that serves to support students in the advancement of knowledge about foundational sciences, evidenced-based practice and the development of the human across the lifespan (lifespan development), which are identified as program streams/threads. Prior to entering the program, students are required to have specific pre-requisites and a liberal arts bachelor’s degree. Prerequisite courses were selected to strengthen the student’s scientific knowledge of body function/body structure relationships and to support students in the advancement of knowledge of the domain Client Factors operationalized in the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework (AOTA, 2014). The professional program advances this knowledge through the stream foundational sciences, evidenced-based practice, fundamental skills, professionalism and lifespan development .
Occupation: Knowledge that serves to support students’ in the understanding, application and creation of concepts, interventions, and products that reflect the unique perspective of occupation in the life of a human being.
Leadership: Knowledge that supports students in the influence or representation of the profession, healthcare policy and management, enterprise, advocation, and innovation.
Foundational Sciences: This stream represents a broad foundation in liberal arts and sciences and includes pre-requisite courses. Upon matriculation into the OTD program, this stream represents information that supports students in the development of scientific knowledge about body functions/body structures and OT theories.
Fundamental Skills: This stream represents information that supports students in the development and utilization of practical skills and strategies supportive of the OT Process.
Evidence–Based Practice: This stream represents information about evidenced-based informational resources, methods and measurements.
Lifespan Development: This stream represents information about human development and behavior and includes information about practice settings/life stages, evidenced-based practices and the impact of various contexts and health conditions on development and behavior. Lifespan is organized across the curriculum as follows: pediatrics (birth-10 years), adolescence (10-19 years), adulthood (20-64), and aging adulthood (65-death).
Professionalism: This stream develops students’ knowledge of the culture of occupational therapy practice from a national, international and regional perspective and expands students’ interprofessional knowledge through cognates with other students from other disciplines. Students learn about professional ethics, practice scope, licensure rules and regulations and the importance of lifelong learning. The professionalism stream is emphasized during Fieldwork experiences.
Curriculum Design: Conceptual Model
The conceptual visual for the curriculum design is crafted in the likeness of rivers, streams, and creeks that run through the Delta Region. The rivers represent the domains, the streams represent the primary threads found within a specific course and the creeks represent information that develops into streams with progression through the curriculum. Similar to running water, the curriculum dynamically moves to first emphasize core knowledge, then occupation and then engagement. However, all domains remain active throughout the curriculum to maintain comprehensive and balanced learning opportunities. With program matriculation, some streams move into creeks, creeks move into streams and some rivers become prominent while others less. As students progress into Level II Fieldworks all domains and streams serve to influence learning because students will call upon learned knowledge to support the experiential learning that takes place in clinical and community-based settings. Overall, the water represents occupation flowing through a region. Just as the land shapes the flow of water, we believe the dynamic interaction of physical, social, spiritual temporal, cultural and psychological dimensions of existence shape the course of human life. As each river has its own course, we believe the healthy day-to-day life is organized around structure and routine. As waterways flow and disperse throughout the land; likewise, our students will be self -directed, self -motivated, and establish their own rhythm of daily life occupation. They will utilize their energy, creativity, and knowledge to maximize the quality of life of individuals, families and societies in the Delta Region and beyond.
Organization of Coursework
Curriculum Summary Semester 1: Students begin the first semester of their professional education expanding upon their core knowledge through information from the foundational sciences stream where students consider and analyze the biological influences to health conditions and/or experienced disability through OTD 7213 Movement Science and OTD 7113 Gross Anatomy and OTD 5023 Pathology and Disability. Students are introduced to the science supportive of occupational therapy in OTD 5012 History of OT Science and OTD 5092 Research I: Occupational Science. Students are introduced to evidenced based-practice in OTD 5092 Research I: Occupational Science where they learn about core concepts essential to the review of a research paper that informs practice. Students are introduced to the unique meaning of occupation in OTD 5012 History of OT Science and the development of occupation-based theories and methods in OTD 5092 Research I: Occupational Science. They learn about specific instrumentation methods used to measure physical abilities in OTD 5043 Technology and Skills Training and begin to develop knowledge about the unique culture of occupational therapy through the professionalism stream (OTD 5012). Students are introduced to leadership through OTD 5043 where they teach OTA students about the tools and methods used in the clinic to support physical rehabilitation.
Organizational Summary Semester 2: The second semester fully engages students in two bodies of knowledge: occupation and core knowledge. Core knowledge continues to develop through the foundational sciences as students learn about the cellular, molecular and structural aspects of the brain in OTD 7224 Neuroscience. Because Neuroscience is a theoretical basis for occupational therapy, this course is allotted 4 credit hours to allow students more time to learn about complex and dynamic mind/body connections that serve as a foundation to the profession. The additional hour in the Neuroscience course enables students to work in problem-based learning teams that work to identify the relationship between a neurological condition, occupation and perceived wellness. Core knowledge expands into the OTD 5074 Practice I. Pediatrics course where students learn about the developing child from experienced pediatric experts. Knowledge is expanded upon in the course OTD 5142 Research II Descriptive Research where students learn how to translate observations into measurable form, implement surveys and use research methods to support evidenced-based practice. Students take their first cognate course, which expands upon their core knowledge in one of three cognate areas: Behavioral, Leadership and Policy, and Educator. The curriculum emphasizes occupation as students move into the first of five practice courses (I-V). Practice courses reflect the “relevant drivers of change” outlined in the AOTA centennial vision (AOTA, 2003). Practice courses are organized around the human lifespan (aging), psychosocial factors and population health to provide students with information from instructors with expertise in the particular area (pediatrics, adolescents and adulthood, aging adult, psychosocial, population health) supportive of the course. The occupation domain grows larger through the practice courses where students develop knowledge about occupation-based theories, measurement methods, evidenced-based intervention methods and the influence of occupation on the individual, group and population. This information compliments students’ first Level I Fieldwork (OTD 5201 Level I: Pediatrics), which is concentrated in pediatrics to support the integration of classroom and applied knowledge. Additionally, students learn about commonly used treatment methods (development, compensation, preparatory methods etc.), task analysis, therapeutic use of self and other clinical applications through OTD 5183 Fundamentals of OT I. This is the first of a series of four (I-IV) Fundamentals courses developed to support students in the application of theoretical knowledge through the development of clinical skills. The occupation domain also serves as a cornerstone to the OTD 7224 Neuroscience course because students learn about the neuroscience supportive of everyday living. The OTD 5142 course enables students to learn about the influence of occupation through a personal perspective with occupation-based tools to support a one-on-one interview with an individual living with disability in the Northeast Arkansas region. This process along with the fieldwork experience supports students in the development of professional identify. The development of leadership continues with OTD 7224 where students work together around a problem-based learning assignment about the neuroscience of occupation and present the team’s synthesis of findings at the end of the semester.
Organizational Summary Semester 3: During the third semester, the students participate in service learning developed to facilitate the expansion of knowledge, the application of occupation-based principles, the administration and interpretation of assessments and the utilization of observational skills.. The third semester marks a gradual emphasis in the curriculum from core knowledge and occupation to that of scholarship through the integration of core knowledge, occupation and leadership. Core knowledge continues to be developed as students take the second practice course OTD 5173 Practice II: Adolescents and Adulthood where they learn about the science associated with the life stage adolescents and early-middle adulthood. Students will learn about hormonal changes and the influence of neurochemistry on the development of the adolescent and the adult. They will also learn about research principles and apply knowledge through the creation of a study proposal and the application of statistical analysis for the purposes of informing clinical practice in OTD 6182 Research III: Experimental Research. Knowledge about Occupation continues to expand through OTD 5173 as students advance their understanding of occupation-based theories and practices that support adolescents and adults in achieving optimal occupational performance. In OTD 6182 students learn about the use of outcomes to inform occupational therapy treatments and they integrate observations from the service-learning assignment to develop mock studies designed to improve occupational performance. Skill development in the area of leadership and advocacy continues as the students participate in service learning supported through OTD 5283 Fundamentals of OT II. They consider the scope of occupational therapy through the professionalism stream in OTD 5173. Students gain confidence through Leadership during the service learning experiences jointly developed through the courses OTD 5283 and OTD 6182. Participation in service learning necessitates leadership skills and provides students with ample opportunities to reflect upon the role of OT in advocacy and non-traditional settings (occupation), develop critical thinking skills about the development of empirical questions (core knowledge) and dynamically interact in non-structured learning environment (leadership).
Organizational Summary Semester 4: To prepare students for the upcoming Level IIs (in semester 6 and 7), the fourth semester incorporates information from the professionalism stream throughout the curriculum. Students’ Core Knowledge about interprofessionalism expands with the second cognate focused in one of three areas: Behavioral, Leadership and Policy, and Educator. In OTD 6164 Practice III: Aging Adult, the students are introduced to the science and life stages associated with the aging process. In OTD 6222 Research IV: Mixed Methods Research students articulate their capstone question and write a scholarly theoretical paper, Scholarship Through Integration, which supports their culminating doctorate project, The Scholarship of Application. Students develop clinical competencies during two level Is: OTD 5151 Level I Fieldwork: Psychosocial and OTD 6191 Level I Fieldwork: Aging Adult. The occupation domain continues to be emphasized with the OTD 6164 Practice III: Aging Adult course where students learn about occupation-based theories through the foundational sciences stream and the application of knowledge through the OT Process through the lifespan development stream and consider the role of the occupational therapist through the professional stream. Students continue to expand upon their repertoire of clinical skills with OTD 6183 Fundamentals of OT III where they learn about the modification of the environment to support occupation and policies and procedures important to follow when making modifications. This dynamic learning experience serves to integrate leadership and knowledge about occupation. The OTD 5151 Level I Fieldwork: Psychosocial moves students from traditional settings to settings where OT services have not existed. This experience serves to develop students’ leadership skills as they teach clients and healthcare professionals about the impact of occupational therapy on psychosocial factors and outcomes and demonstrate professionalism to individuals in the North East Arkansas region. The course OTD 6191 Level I: Aging Adult supports students in the application of knowledge develop through OTD 6164.
Organizational Summary Semester 5: Semester five marks the final semester prior to students beginning their first level II fieldwork experiences. Accordingly, the curriculum equally represents the three domains core knowledge, occupation and leadership with coursework strongly informed through the professionalism stream. The OTD 6231 Level I Fieldwork: Interprofessional Practice expands students’ knowledge about the scope of occupational therapy and other professions and develop leadership skills as they articulate the unique contribution occupational therapy can make to the individual experiencing barriers to occupation and participation. Students also learn about the science that underlies psychosocial balance and imbalance with OTD 6103 Practice IV Psychosocial where they explore the DSM-V, occupation-based theories, group dynamics and the varied roles of the occupational therapist who serves to support clients experiencing psychosocial imbalance experience well-being, participation and improved quality-of-life. Students will be expected to demonstrate leadership as they engage with other professionals in other fields during OTD 6231 and apply knowledge about psychosocial factors that impact clients during OTD 6103. Students continue to learn fundamentals skills in the last fundamentals course (with OTD 6283 Fundamentals of OT IV) during which they will be expected to integrate and demonstrate clinical skills learned from prior fundamentals courses. In preparation for Level II experiences and future practice, students will develop professional knowledge about state licensure and National board regulations and processes in the OTD 6243 Professional Practice Seminar. Additionally, students will develop goals for the upcoming OTD 726V Doctoral Rotation (semester 9) and develop a timeline to establish level III placements. Finally, students will articulate their knowledge about occupation and the role of occupational therapists with 1:1 interview with OTD faculty. This interview is a re-assessment and will be compared to baseline knowledge measured during the first semester course OTD 5012 History of OT Science.
Organizational Summary Semesters 6 and 7: Level II Fieldwork experience creates the ultimate experiential learning as students participate in two (OTD 625V and OTD 720V) twelve-week (totaling 24 weeks) fieldwork experiences in traditional and/or emerging practice areas. Both Level II Fieldwork experiences require students to complete reflective assignments that emphasize the three domains core knowledge, occupation and leadership while drawing from and expanding on their knowledge from the five streams foundational sciences, lifespan development, fundamental skills, evidenced-based practice and professionalism. Both level II Fieldworks expose students to at least two practice areas per fieldwork experience. In all settings, psychosocial factors influencing engagement in occupation are identified and integrated for the development of client-centered, meaningful, occupation-based outcomes.
At the end of the seventh semester, students are required to demonstrate entry-level OT Practice skills competency by passing an NBCOT practice exam. Students progress to the coursework in semester 8, which focuses on further advancing the knowledge and skills beyond the entry level practitioner after successful completion of the competency exam.
Organizational Summary Semester 8: Following the two Level II experiences that took place semester 6 and semester 7, semester eight purposefully reintegrates the students into the classroom to build upon the learning experienced during level II experiences to develop knowledge in advanced topics relevant to healthcare. Additionally, semester 8 prepares students to move into the ninth semester during which their learning will culminate through a capstone project, The Scholarship of Application, and a level III fieldwork experience that reflects their cognate coursework. Accordingly, the semester 8 curriculum emphasizes all the integration of the three domains core knowledge, occupation and leadership. This organization reflects the maturation of the student from matriculation into a program where the development of knowledge was emphasized to the development of the critical-thinking skills necessary to independently create and lead evidenced-based practices. During semester 8, Core knowledge continues to develop through the final cognate course and the final practice course (OTD 7223 Practice V: Population Health) where students expand upon person-centered learning to consider interprofessional influences and contexts that influence the health and wellness of populations. Students expand upon knowledge to consider the micro- and macro-healthcare systems and services available to clients through OTD 7252 Healthcare Delivery. They move from the development of new knowledge to leadership and occupation through the course OTD 7242 Program Development and Assessment where they apply knowledge to conduct a needs assessment and develop an occupation-based program or treatment in an identified area of interest. The culmination of core knowledge, leadership and occupation takes place through the course OTD 7222: Research V: Scholarship of Application where students explore funding options, develop an evidenced-based library and synthesize evidence findings to support the development of the occupation-based program or treatment developed in OTD 7242. This work creates a foundation for the upcoming (semester 9) capstone project. Prior to complete of OTD 7242, students will submit their IRB protocol and complete research training modules to support ethical research investigation.
Organizational Summary Semester 9: The ninth semester culminates students’ learning experiences through the synthesis of knowledge, leadership and occupation and the integration of curriculum streams as students engage in the OTD 726V Level III Fieldwork: Doctoral Rotation and the OTD 7272 Capstone project. The level III experience builds upon prior cognate coursework while the capstone projects serves to synthesize program outcomes including the utilization and creation of evidenced-based and occupation-based practices and the demonstration of leadership and advocacy skills.
The curriculum has also been designed to meet all university levels guidelines and requirements.
American Occupational Therapy Association. (2014). Occupational therapy practice framework: Domain and process. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68(Suppl. 1), S1–S48. doi:10.5014/ajot.2014.682006
Yerxa, E. J. (1998). Occupation: The keystone of a curriculum for a self-defined profession. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 52, 365–372.