Humans are occupational beings who actively engage in occupations that are productive, pleasurable, and give restoration (Pierce, 2003). Balance among these occupations may vary for each individual and may change throughout one’s lifespan. The influence of one’s health, the environment in which one functions, and the required tasks impact the individual’s balance among productivity, pleasure, and restoration. It is important for a person to recognize the impact his/her engagement in occupation has on health and quality of life. Humans are complex and multi-dimensional, and can only be fully understood by viewing their existence from a holistic perspective, taking into consideration contextual factors such as cultural and societal norms and expectations. The ability to make choices and adapt to change illustrates the power of self-determination and free will that the human possesses and that are foundational to the philosophy of occupational therapy.
Occupation refers to the “tasks of everyday life, named, organized and given value and meaning by individuals and culture,” including everything people do to occupy themselves (Stanton et al., 2002, p. 3). Occupations have a unique purpose and meaning for each individual, are influenced by multiple contexts, and include ways to occupy time. Examples of occupations include self care tasks, work tasks, educational tasks, and leisure activities. Occupations enable the person to fulfill his/her role and meaning in life, and can influence an individual’s health and sense of well being. Occupational therapy is concerned with promoting engagement and facilitating performance in occupations of individuals, groups, organizations, and communities.
Occupational therapists identify and address those factors limiting a client’s “engagement in occupation to support participation in context or contexts” (AOTA, 2002, p. 611). The occupational therapy process is client centered, and the relationship between the client and the occupational therapist is collaborative and dynamic. The occupational therapist recognizes that significant others are frequently part of this relationship. The process of occupational therapy requires critical reasoning skills, creativity, abstract thinking, capacity for empathy, and an understanding of multiple stakeholders’ perspectives.
The entry-level occupational therapy program within the School of Occupational Therapy provides an organized curriculum that assists students in developing the attitudes, values, knowledge, and skills necessary for successful practice. The occupational therapy student, as a learner, possesses prerequisite knowledge and skills that provide a supportive framework for the acquisition of new understandings related to human occupational performance. The curriculum systematically builds on this foundational knowledge by developing each student’s ability to analyze, synthesize, and integrate increasingly difficult information, thus matching the critical reasoning process used by occupational therapists.
With faculty as partners in the teaching-learning process, students undergo transformation via self-reflection, constructive feedback, and active learning experiences to become self-directed learners. This transformation facilitates the recognition of the need for lifelong learning. Self-directed learning, or self-authorship (Magolda, 2002), is accomplished through engagement in a process of self-evaluation of personal and professional performance. Self-reflection provides for understanding of individual learning styles and identifying learning needs. As a result of self-evaluation, students engage in a continual process of identifying and participating in opportunities for growth and lifelong learning, and are thus empowered to take control of the learning process.
Faculty provide teaching and learning experiences to facilitate transformative learning and self-responsibility. Faculty build relationships with their students, and assume the responsibility for modeling those cooperative and collegial behaviors required for professional practice. Faculty thus engage with students in collaborative partnerships to create a supportive framework for the construction of new knowledge.
American Occupational Therapy Association (2008). Occupational Therapy Practice Framework: Domain and Process (2nd Ed.), American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 56, 609 - 639.
Magolda, M. B. (January-February, 2002). Helping students make their way to adulthood: Good company for the journey. About Campus, pp. 2-9.
Pierce, D. (2003). Occupation by Design: Building Therapeutic Power. F.A. Davis, Co., Philadelphia, PA.
Stanton, S., Law, M., Polatajko, H., Baptiste, S., Thompson-Franson, T., Kramer, C. et al. (2002). In E. Townsend (Ed.), Enabling occupation: An occupational therapy perspective (2nd ed.). Ottawa, Ontario: CAOT Publications ACE.