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Curriculum Philosophy

"Occupational Therapy at Duquesne University promotes not only intellectual growth, but also enhances one's personal and spiritual growth."- Susan Borellis

As a profession, occupational therapists have come to understand that occupation is a critical dimension of human existence. 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 a person’s continuous adaptation.  Throughout one’s life span, humans engage in occupation 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.

The Occupational Therapy Program at Duquesne University prepares students that:

  • apply liberal and scientific knowledge to guide ethical and moral actions which promote quality of life and successful adaptation for citizens, communities, the profession and themselves.

  • uphold occupational therapy values, ethics, standards and philosophy.

  • pursue focused lifelong learning to continue professional and personal growth.

  • establish the requisite practice-scholar habits to use and create evidence to support their practice specialty.

  • engage as a leader facilitating change and/or knowledge-sharing to enhance the practice of occupational therapy.

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  ‘doing’ 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

Developing practice scholars is a 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 and service learning, and program outcomes evaluation.  Students in our program are consistently challenged to critically reflect on their practice and to embed scholarship activities in their every day practice.  They learn and practice knowledge, skills, and attitudes that will allow them to assume leadership roles as practitioners, research collaborators, and advocates.

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., 2003, p. 1031).  Occupations are the essence of productive living.  Occupations are multidimensional (Christiansen & Baum, 2005). Our students are trained to recognize occupation as the critical link between the person and their environment and to appreciate the impact of personal (spiritual, cultural, physical, etc.) and environmental (social, physical, political, etc) influences on occupational function and performance.

A guiding component of the 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.  A 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.  Important related concepts such as quality of life, meaningful productivity, independent living, full participation, social and occupational justice, evidence-based practice, multiculturalism, and healthy lifestyles are also considered in the interplay between the person, occupations, and the environment. The 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 that enable them to use occupation as the medium to assist people to live their lives to the fullest extent possible.  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---in some cases, student excel at contributing to the scholarship of practice before graduation.

Professional education ensures access to the requisite knowledge skills, attitudes, and critical reflection for becoming a practitioner with emphasis on capacities of the practice-scholar. Foundational focus is on the physical, cognitive, social and psychological components that influence a person’s capacity for occupational performance as well as dimensions related to meaning and personal importance that people attach to their engagement in occupation.  In addition, every student is encouraged to acquire the understanding of the role of the practice scholar with opportunity for required and elective achievement of higher levels for entry-level practice if desired. The curriculum is designed to enable Duquesne University occupational therapy students to achieve the above knowledge and skills and attitudes through an active, engaging, broad, well balanced, and fully integrated curriculum.

1Personal 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.

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