College of Health Professions

Department of Occupational Therapy and Occupational Science

Student Handbook 2011-2012

I. Department Information:  Educational Overview

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 1.11, 1026).

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 Therapists, 1997).

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 & Townsend, 2008).

Statement of Philosophy of Occupational Therapy Education

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 justice].

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 professionals.

American Occupational Therapy Association. (1995). The philosophical base of occupational
therapy. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 49(10), 1026.
American Occupational Therapy Association. (1999). The definition of occupational therapy
practice for the AOTA model practice act. American Journal of Occupational Therapy,
53(6), 608.
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
Therapy, 62, 625-6838.
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. A. Davis.
Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. New
York: Cambridge University Press.

Mezirow, J. & Associates (2000). Learning as transformation: Critical perspectives on a theory in progress. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Reilly, M. (1962). Occupational therapy can be one of the great ideas of 20th century medicine. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 16, 87-105.
Towson University. (2010). Towson University 2016: Building within- reaching out. Retrieved January 5, 2011 from
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,
& B. Schell (Eds.), Willard & Spackman’s occupational therapy (11th ed.). Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams, & Wilkins.
Zemke, R., & Clark, F. (1996). Occupational science: The evolving discipline. Philadelphia:
F. A. Davis.



Department consent is required for admission to all occupational therapy major courses.




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