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Curriculum Philosophy

The Department of Occupational Therapy holds sacred its fundamental obligations to serve God by serving students and to at animate the Spiritan Charism of Duquesne University, which call us to educate students who have a profound concern for moral and spiritual values, a hospitality to diversity and multiculturalism, and a commitment to service to the community, the nation and the world. The Spiritan Charism is consistent with and compliments the philosophies, code of ethics, and standards of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA, 2011, 2015).

Human Occupation

As a profession, occupational therapists have come to understand that occupation is a critical dimension of human existence. Occupations are "daily activities that reflect the cultural values, provide structure to living, and meaning to individuals; these activities meet human needs for self-care, enjoyment and participation in society. (Crepeau, et al., 2013, p. 1031). Occupations are multidimensional and participation in occupation is the essence of productive living (Christiansen & Baum, 2015).

Person-Occupation Environment

Engaging in occupation is "the active process of being, becoming and belonging as well as performing or doing occupations" (Townsend & Polatajko, 2007, pp. 370). Engagement in occupation is a dynamic process that supports the person's continuous adaptation. Throughout their life span, humans engage in occupations in a variety of contexts. This person-occupation-environment interaction is essential to an individual's ability to effectively engage in meaningful, purposeful occupations throughout their life. A deeper understanding of the interplay between the person, occupations, and their environments is gained by considering important related concepts such as quality of life, meaningful productivity, independent living, full participation, social and occupational justice, multiculturalism, and healthy lifestyles (AOTA, 2011).
A guiding component of the Department of Occupational Therapy's curriculum philosophy is that occupational performance is developed and enhanced by treating the "whole person" and attending to physical, psychological, social and cultural issues as influenced by the environment. Our students are trained to recognize occupation as the critical link between the person and their environment and to appreciate the impact of personal (e.g., spiritual, cultural, physical) and environmental (e.g., social, physical, political) influences on occupational function and performance. Our consistent focus on person-environment interaction as the dynamic process whereby an individual has the potential to influence their environment, and vice versa through the use of occupation and engagement in occupational roles is integrated throughout the curriculum. This focus on occupation and occupational performance as an integrated and consistent theme in the curriculum ensures the graduates develop the capacity to critically examine the occupations people perform and enables them to use occupation as the medium to assist people to live their lives to the fullest extent possible.

Practice Scholarship

Developing practice scholars is another guiding component of the occupational therapy curriculum. Practice scholars have established the requisite habits to use and create evidence that supports occupation and evidence-based practice (Crist, Muñoz, Witchger-Hansen, Benson & Provident, 2005). The scholarship of practice is a constant consideration in curricular design, educational pedagogy, community-university partnership, community engaged learning (service learning), and program outcome evaluations. Students in our program are consistently challenged to recognize that scholarship is an essential element in their success as leaders and practice scholars (Townsend, Polatajko, Craik & von Zweck (2011). To that end, the Duquesne University program generates consistent opportunities for students to critically reflect on their practice and to embed scholarship activities in their everyday practice. Students learn and practice knowledge, skills, attitudes and habits that allow them to assume leadership roles as practitioners, research collaborators, and advocates. Our emphasis on practice scholarship challenges students to intentionally link occupational therapy theory and practice and to ensure that the best available evidence guides their practice.

Educational Philosophy

The educational philosophy of the Department of Occupational Therapy is organized around five core components, which are integrated into and guide instruction. These include:

  • a graded developmental approach to acquiring the knowledge, skills and attitudes to be a practice scholar who reflects on and engages in the scholarly application of occupational therapy and has a skill set to deliver person-centered, evidence- based occupational therapy.
  • a concentration on occupation as the link between person and environment and as an organizing framework for understanding the interaction of these factors on occupational performance.
  • a central focus on occupation, on humans as occupational beings, and on the complex processes by which people find meaning and health through the interactive person-environment process of ʻdoingʼ or engagement in occupations.
  • a comprehensive understanding of both personal factors and context or environmental influences on occupational performance and function in the areas of occupation.1
  • an intentional use of engaged, active learning educational pedagogies that embed learning in context.2

1 Personal factors include: values, belief, spirituality, bodily functions and structures that contribute to performance skills ( motor and praxis, sensory-perceptual, emotional regulation, cognitive, and communication and social skills) and performance patterns (habits, routine, roles and rituals). Context or environmental factors include: physical, social, cultural, personal, temporal, virtual and spiritual. Occupations include: activities of daily living, instrumental activities of daily living, rest and sleep, education, work, play, leisure, and social participation including co- occupations.

2 Engaged or active learning includes: service learning, community-university partnership, competency testing, problem based learning, situated learning, fieldwork etc.


American Occupational Therapy Association. (2011). The philosophical base of occupational therapy. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 65(Suppl.), S65. doi: 10.5014/ajot.2011.65S65

American Occupational Therapy Association. (20115). Occupational therapy code of ethics. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 69(Suppl. 3),

Christiansen, C. & Baum, C. (2015). Occupational therapy- performance, participation, & well-being. Thorofare: Slack Inc.

Crepeau, E., Cohn, E.S., & Boyt Schell, B.A. (2013) Willard & Spackman's occupational therapy. Philadelphia : Lippincott.

Crist, P., Muñoz, J.P., Hansen, A., Benson, J. & Provident, I. (2005). The practice-scholar program: An academic- practice partnership to promote the scholarship of "best practices". Occupational Therapy in Health Care, 19 (1/2), 71-93.

Townsend, E. & Polatajko, H. (2007) Enabling occupation II: Advancing an occupational therapy vision for health, well-being, & justice through occupation. Ottawa : Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists.
Townsend, E. A., Polatajko, H. J., Craik, J. M., & von Zweck, C. M. (2011). Introducing the Leadership in Enabling Occupation (LEO) Model. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 78, 255-259. doi: 10.2182/cjot.2011.78.4.7.