The scientific study of humans as occupational beings is a central concept of this master program. Our concept of occupational therapy is based on the fundamental premise that occupation is an integral part of life and a pre-requisite to participation (Kielhofner 2008, Christiansen and Townsend, 2010). The program is designed by keeping in mind the demand of the increasingly dynamic healthcare system that requires graduates to be flexible, autonomous, broadly educated generalists. The program also focuses to produce leaders who are able to use creative and critical thinking, as well as clinical reasoning with great effectiveness and efficiency. This is accomplished through enhanced understanding of the rich complexities of occupation. The intent of this understanding of occupation is to improve the effectiveness of using occupation as an assessment as well as intervention within the health and wellness system. This simply means that the students investigate the art and science of occupation: doing the everyday activities of life within their socio-cultural contexts; examining how life-styles influence health and wellbeing, and how participation in occupation can be used therapeutically. Our curriculum philosophy therefore strongly embodies the profession’s Centennial Vision concepts of an evidence-based profession that is globally connected with a diverse workforce prepared to meet society’s occupational needs (AOTA, 2007).
The underlying philosophy of the master program at the Georgia State is, therefore, also in sync with the Philosophical Base of Occupational Therapy as stated by the American Occupational Therapy Association as follows (AOTA, 2011):
“Occupations are activities that bring meaning to the daily lives of individuals, families, and communities and enable them to participate in society. All individuals have an innate need and right to engage in meaningful occupations throughout their lives. Participation in these occupations influences their development, health, and well-being across the lifespan. As such, participation in meaningful occupation is a determinant of health.
Occupations occur within diverse social, physical, cultural, personal, temporal, or virtual contexts. The quality of occupational performance and the experience of each occupation are unique in each situation due to the dynamic relationship between factors intrinsic to the individual, the contexts in which the occupation occurs, and the characteristics of the activity.
The focus and outcome of occupational therapy are individuals’ engagement in meaningful occupations that support their participation in life situations. Occupational therapy practitioners conceptualize occupations as both a means and an end to therapy. That is, there is therapeutic value in occupational engagement as a change agent, and engagement in occupations is also the ultimate goal of therapy.
Occupational therapy is based on the belief that occupations may be used for health promotion and wellness, remediation or restoration, health maintenance, disease and injury prevention, and compensation/adaptation. The use of occupation to promote individual, community, and population health is the core of occupational therapy practice, education, research, and advocacy”
View of Humanity
Our view of humanity is consistent with the AOTA Core Values and Attitudes of Occupational Therapy Practice (AOTA, 1993).
- All human life has intrinsic dignity and inherent worth. This inherent worth and dignity are not diminished by disease, dysfunction or disability.
- Participation in occupations fosters a sense of competence and self-worth, which enhances dignity and quality of life.
- Every individual has the potential for growth and change and meaningful, satisfying interaction with the environment.
- Each individual is unique. Diversity in human attributes, values, beliefs and life styles is acknowledged and respected.
- Human beings must be viewed holistically. The dynamic interaction of all aspects of the individual’s life and environment, including physical, psychological, cognitive, social, emotional, spiritual and cultural components, must be considered when developing an understanding of the individual and the impact of occupational challenges on the individual.
- Life experience and perspectives are unique to the individual, and every individual has the right to make choices, experience self-determination, freedom and independence.
Approach to Learning and Instruction
The preparation of entry level occupational therapists at Georgia State University is viewed as a collaborative effort between each student and faculty member and is based on the educational philosophy of pragmatism (Orstein, 1993, Breines, 1987) and the occupational therapy tenant of learning by doing. Central to pragmatism are the concepts of change, process, and relativity. Pragmatism views knowledge as a process that is constantly changing and learning is considered a transaction between the learner and the environment, both of which are constantly changing and adapting. The following statements represent our view of the teaching and learning process.
- “Learning occurs as the person engages in problem solving; problem solving is moreover, transferable to a wide variety of subjects and situations” (Orstein, 1993, p.39).
- Learning becomes an active process that may take place individually or in groups. Active learning is facilitated through reflection, critiquing, critical analysis, collaboration and discussion, viewing information from different perspectives, associating and organizing relevant information and, clarifying one’s own point of view (Schmidt, 1993).
- Given guidance and relevant experiences, the learner develops the ability to critically analyze and approach problems in a variety of settings and situations and to see the wholes and the parts and the relationships to each other and human performance.
- Teaching students to be reflective and critical thinkers is central to the educational process and our philosophy of education. The curriculum fosters the acquisition of clinical reasoning, critical thinking, and judgment through teaching and active learning activities that promote reflective and evidence based decision-making in a student centered learning environment.
- Teaching and learning is a collaborative process between faculty and students. It is fostered by faculty who are well-informed educators, scholars and professionals who model the level of excellence required of the students. The faculty member is accountable to design learning activities that challenge the student intellectually, convey accurate information and promote the professional development of the student as occupation- based and client-centered practitioner.
- Students have a responsibility in the teaching and learning process to ensure that they have a commitment to a consistent level of preparation and participation in the collaborative process that will ensure mastery at the levels of knowledge, skill and attitude required.
American Occupational Therapy Association. (2007). AOTA’s Centennial Vision and executive summary. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 61, 613-614. doi: 10.5014/ajot.61.6.613
American Occupational Therapy Association. (2011). The philosophical base of occupational therapy, American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 65(6 Suppl.), S65. doi: 10.5014/ajot.2011.65S65
American Occupational Therapy Association, (1993). Core values and attitudes of occupational therapy practice. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 47, 1085-1086.
American Occupational Therapy Association. (1995). The philosophical base of occupational therapy. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 49, 1026.
American Occupational Therapy Association, (2008). Occupational therapy practice framework: Domain and process (2nd ed.). American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 62, 625-688.
Breines, E. (1987). Pragmatism as a foundation for occupational therapy curricula. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 41, 522-525.
Christiansen, C.H. & Baum, C.M. (2005). Person-environment-occupation- performance: An Occupation-based framework for practice. In C.H. Christiansen, C.M. Baum & J.Bass-Haugen (Eds.) Occupational therapy: Performance, participation, and well-being (3rd ed.) (pp.243-259). Thorofare, NJ:Slack Incorporated.
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Schmidt, H.G. (1993). Foundations of problem-based learning. Medical Education, 27, 422-432.\
Kielhofner, G. (2008). Model of human occupation: Theory and application (4th ed.). Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins
Christiansen, C. H., & Townsend, E. A. (Eds.). (2010). Introduction to occupation: The art and science of living (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.