Department of Occupational Therapy and Occupational Science
I. Department Information:
B. Philosophy Statement
The Occupational Nature of Humans and How They Learn
Our philosophy about the nature of humans and how
they learn is in alignment with the basic
assumptions of occupational science and occupational
therapy. According to the American Occupational
Therapy’s (AOTA) Philosophical Base of Occupational
Therapy “the understanding and use of occupations
shall be at the central core of occupational therapy
practice, education, and research” (1995, Policy
Accordingly, we believe that:
Humans as occupational beings (Clark, Ennevor, &
Richardson, 1996) learn, evolve, and realize meaning
and purpose in their lives through engagement in
occupations (Wilcock, 1998; Zemke & Clark, 1996).
Humans produce, create, master, and improve their
environments to achieve health and well-being
(Reilly, 1962). Viewed as complex systems, humans
are in a constant state of dynamic change (Gray,
Kennedy, & Zemke, 1996). Through active engagement
in occupations, humans learn about and develop their
physical, social, cognitive, psychological,
cultural, and spiritual capacities.
The occupations humans need and choose to perform
develop and change (Zemke & Clark, 1996) across
various periods of their lives, and are influenced
by the social and physical environments and the
cultural, personal, temporal, and virtual contexts
that exist within and around them (AOTA, 2008).
Likewise, humans shape their contexts and
environments through the occupations in which they
engage (Canadian Association of Occupational
Occupational disruption and deprivation creates
barriers for learning and leads to diminished health
and well-being. Thus, it is important for humans to
engage individually and collectively in necessary
and chosen occupations, that provide opportunities
for them to actively shape their lives, and to
experience independence or interdependence,
equality, health, and well-being (Wilcock &
Statement of Philosophy of Occupational
Our philosophy of education is consistent with our
philosophy about the nature of humans and how they
learn and is adapted from of the Philosophy of
Education of the AOTA (2007, 678). Accordingly, we
believe that Occupational therapy [and occupational
science] education is grounded in the belief that
humans are complex beings engaged in a dynamic
process of interaction with the physical, social,
temporal, cultural, psychological, and spiritual
environments [and contexts]. Through active
engagement within the internal and external
environments [and contexts], humans evolve, change,
and adapt. Occupational therapy [and occupational
science] educators advocate the use of occupation to
facilitate health promoting growth, change, and/or
adaptation with the goal of participation in
meaningful occupation that supports survival, self
actualization, occupational balance, [occupational
justice] and quality of life.
The profession of occupational therapy [and the
discipline of occupational science] … [are] …
dynamic, grounded in core principles of occupation,
and …influenced by emerging knowledge and
technologies. Thus, the education of future
occupational therapists… [and occupational
scientists] must consistently reinforce the
development of new knowledge supporting the use of
occupation, application of clinical reasoning, the
necessity for life-long learning, and the
improvement of professional [and scholarly]
knowledge and skills.
Occupational therapy [and occupational science]
education promotes competence through educational
experiences that foster the occupational therapists’
[and occupational scientists’] … practice potential,
[advocacy capacity] and scholarship development.
Occupational therapy [and occupational science]
educators use active learning that engages the
learner in a collaborative process that builds upon
prior knowledge and experiences, and integrates
professional academic knowledge, [scholarship and
research], experiential learning, clinical
reasoning, and self-reflection. Occupational therapy
[and occupational science] education promotes
integration of philosophical and theoretical
knowledge, values, beliefs, ethics, and …skills for
broad application to practice, [scholarship, and
advocacy] in order to improve human participation
and quality of life for ... [individuals,
organizations, and populations for those occupations
in which they need and choose to engage].
The occupational therapy [and occupational science]
education process emphasizes continuing critical
inquiry in order that occupational therapists...
[and occupational scientists] be well prepared to
function and thrive in the dynamic environments of a
diverse and multi-cultural society, using the power
of occupation as the primary method of evaluation,
intervention… health promotion, [and occupational
This philosophy of education is in alignment with
the mission statement of Towson University which
states that in addition to educating students in
specialized knowledge of defined fields, Towson’s
academic programs develop students’ capacities in
effective communication, critical analysis and
flexible thought, and cultivate an awareness of both
difference and commonality necessary for
multifaceted work environments and for local and
global citizenship and leadership. Towson’s core
values reflect high standards of integrity,
collaboration and service, contributing the
sustainment and enrichment of the culture, [and]
society… the State of Maryland and beyond (Towson
University, 2010, p. 4).
Program Specific Statement of Philosophy of
Occupational Therapy Education
Both entry-level occupational therapy programs
primarily utilize constructivism as the basis for
delivery of educational content, believing that
learning and development of core concepts and
knowledge depends on experience and participation
that is situated in the context of occupational
therapy practice and occupational science.
Curriculum and instructional design is influenced by
the belief that construction of meaning depends on
individual and group learning processes and
experiences, based on the philosophy, core
knowledge, and principles of the profession. Because
Towson University Department of Occupational Therapy
and Occupational Science offers two distinct
entry-level programs, each requiring different
instructional methods to meet the developmental
needs of the learners, specific instructional
methods based on different constructivist learning
theories are described more fully for each program.
Combined BS/MS Program
Wenger and Lave (1991) describe a model of
Communities of Practice that is consistent with the
curriculum design and philosophy of this combined
undergraduate and graduate program. The community of
learners build relationships and engage in shared
learning experiences, in order to more efficiently
and effectively construct meaning in their world.
This model supports the use of learning within
cohorts, whereby students move together through the
curricular sequence and engage in both individual
and group learning activities. A shared domain of
interest also is required in a community of
practice, and the philosophical belief in the value
and power of occupational engagement, as well as the
role of the occupational therapist in facilitating
occupational performance, is explicitly postulated
through the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework
(AOTA, 2008) and the foundational theories explored
throughout the program. Finally, a community of
practice can only exist where learners develop the
skills of practitioners. Techniques and skills that
students develop in lab and fieldwork opportunities
assist in their development of practice competencies
necessary for the ethical delivery of occupational
therapy services to clients.
As students move from the undergraduate to graduate
level of learning in the Combined BS/MS program,
they are required to embrace the professional
responsibility of life-long learning. This is
achieved through promotion of adult learning
instructional methods to engage students in
advocacy, research, and advanced professional skills
and use of evidence to support practice.
Professional Master’s Program
Adult learning theorists such as Mezirow (2000),
suggest that learning should cause a transformation
in thinking about certain ideas, concepts, theories,
and philosophies. This transformation occurs as a
result of the active exploration, discussion,
inquiry, and reflection on past and current
experiences. Transformation happens when learners
are provided the opportunity to share with others to
construct new meanings. Because learners in this
program have already obtained a bachelor’s degree
and have completed pre-requisite course
requirements, it is assumed they have an
experiential base from which to construct their
knowledge of occupational therapy. In this regard,
the Professional Master’s Program is formulated to
offer learners the opportunity, from the very first
semester in the program, to engage with other
learners as a community whose objectives are to
develop a deep understanding of the core philosophy
of occupational therapy, the value and meaning of
occupational engagement, and the value and processes
of creating and evaluating evidence for the
profession. Instructional methods consistent with
adult learning theory that allow learners to attach
new meanings to past and current experiences are
included: discussion, practice experiences,
problem-based lecture and lab experiences. The
program culminates with transformed learners
completing fieldwork able to demonstrate the ideals
and competencies that promote continued learning as
American Occupational Therapy Association. (1995).
The philosophical base of occupational
therapy. American Journal of Occupational Therapy,
American Occupational Therapy Association. (1999).
The definition of occupational therapy
practice for the AOTA model practice act. American
Journal of Occupational Therapy,
American Occupational Therapy Association. (2007).
Philosophy of education. American
Journal of Occupational Therapy, 61, 678.
American Occupational Therapy Association. (2008).
The occupational therapy practice
framework: Domain and process 2nd Edition. American
Journal of Occupational
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Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists.
(1997). Enabling occupation: An
occupational therapy perspective. Ottawa, Canada.
CAOT Publications ACE.
Clark, F. A., Ennevor, L. E., & Richardson, P.
(1996). A grounded theory of techniques
or occupational storytelling and occupational story
making. In R. Zemke & F. Clark
(Eds.), Occupational science: The evolving
discipline (pp. 373-392). Philadelphia:
F. A. Davis.
Gray, J. M., Kennedy, B. L., & Zemke, R. (1996).
Application of dynamic systems theory to
occupation. In R. Zemke & F. Clark (Eds.),
Occupational science: The evolving
discipline (pp. 297-308; 309-324). Philadelphia: F.
Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning:
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York: Cambridge University Press.
Mezirow, J. & Associates (2000). Learning as
transformation: Critical perspectives on a theory in
progress. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
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of the great ideas of 20th century medicine.
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 16,
Towson University. (2010). Towson University 2016:
Building within- reaching out. Retrieved January 5,
Wilcock, A. A. (1998). An occupational perspective
of health. Thorofare, NJ: SLACK.
Wilcock, A., & Townsend, E. T. (2008). Occupational
justice. In E. B. Crepeau, E. S. Cohn,
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Zemke, R., & Clark, F. (1996). Occupational science:
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consent is required for admission to all occupational therapy major