Curriculum Threads

The curriculum is designed to ensure that students develop their professional philosophy and requisite practice knowledge, skills and attitudes. This curriculum is sequenced to challenge our students to integrate knowledge and skills from the pre-professional phase into the professional then advanced profession phases. The sequence prepares students to become advanced practitioners, practice-scholars, emerging educators and leaders. The sequence for the curriculum is organized into six major curricular threads that reflect the essence of our curriculum design.

1. Practice Foundations
2. Person-Occupation-Environment Interaction and Performance Across the Life-Span
3. Health Care Delivery Systems and Population-Focused Services
4. Practice-Scholarship
5. Community Engaged Learning, Fieldwork Education and Doctoral Experiential Component
6. Servant Leadership, Specialty Roles and Functions

Practice Foundations: The curriculum is designed to provide students with a strong foundation across three key areas 1) human science, 2) profession knowledge, and 3) professional skills. For example, students complete rigorous coursework in anatomy, neuroanatomy, kinesiology and clinical conditions to support their understanding of human engagement and the impact of function and dysfunction on human occupation. In order to introduce students to the profession's knowledge, they explore the history and current structure, organization and vision of the profession. Students are also introduced to occupational science concepts and learn to view the human developmental continuum through an occupational lens. Finally, students are introduced to key professional skills including group and interpersonal dynamics, activity analysis, professional information literacy and occupational performance evaluation.

Person-Occupation-Environment Interaction and Performance Across the Life-Span: Occupational science, occupation-based practice models for related occupational performance and the remediation, compensation and adaptation of occupational performance are applied. Foundational client factor-oriented coursework is transformed into exploring the client's performance skills and activity demands found in addressing areas of occupation. The information is organized into biomechanical, psychological, neuromotor, sensory, cognitive and perceptual processes which are addressed in a life-span perspective. Students learn specific approaches to addressing problems in performing occupations within various contexts. Community engaged learning, fieldwork education and the doctoral experiential component each provide opportunities for students to apply this academic knowledge, skills and attitudes in various context and to build the clinical competencies required of an entry-level practitioner. Community engaged learning is a core component of engaged and transformative learning and is integrated in the pre-professional and professional phases of the curriculum. Three Level I fieldwork experiences are integrated within our two clinical reasoning courses and our psychosocial intervention course to reinforce and synthesize prior learning and home clinical reasoning. The doctoral experiential component provides opportunities for students to apply this academic knowledge, skills and attitudes at tan advanced practitioner level.

Health Care Delivery Systems and Population-Focused Services: The person-occupation-environment is isolated if curriculum content is too heavily weighted toward client-factors and performance skills. Equally important, occupational therapy practitioners must be skilled to recognize and address professional, social, cultural, political, legislative, and economic factors influencing and even directing, certain occupational performance options and occupational therapy service delivery. Reflecting on the environment and context, both local and global, as significant influences on individual occupations including choices and options begins early in the curriculum and is reinforced repeatedly. The impact of contextual and environmental factors of practice and service delivery systems becomes a more defined focus as students move through the curriculum and increasingly participate in community engaged learning and Level I and Level II Fieldwork offers students the opportunities to refocus on factors impacting health care delivery systems from increasingly informed perspectives. Learning events later in our curriculum such as group and individual grant writing projects, community and program needs assessments, the capstone project and the doctoral experiential are designed to support students' abilities to integrate contemporary social, economic, political, geographic, and demographic factors that impact health care policies and advocate for occupational therapy services that address identified individual and population-based needs

Practice Scholarship: Our practice scholarship initiative began over 15 years ago and reflects an intentional approach to socialize Duquesne University graduates with a personal and professional identity that prioritizes and advocates for a scholarly approach to practice and which equips them with the knowledge and skill sets to produce scholarly products that enhance the practice of occupational therapy. Our scholarship sequence begins early in the curriculum when students learn to access, interpret and critique occupational therapy and related literature. An expectation to apply research literature in clinical decision-making is a consistent component of every intervention-focused course. Students continue to build on practice scholarship knowledge and skills as they study research processes, including project design and data analysis procedures in courses that emphasize quantitative and qualitative approaches to measurement. Many students embark on supervised research projects with a faculty mentor before they earn their baccalaureate degree and all students design and implement small scale studies in their research courses and more focused projects in their capstone project and/or doctoral experiential.

Community Engaged Learning, Fieldwork Education and Doctoral Experiential Component: Learning by doing is a central value of occupational therapy. In our curriculum, courses students in our pre-professional phase learn by doing in a range of learning events where they complete projects at a level commensurate with their training. For example, in the pre-professional phase freshmen students may hone their ability to describe occupational therapy by creating occupational therapy video commercials and sophomores apply activity analysis principles by creating adaptive equipment for individuals who require adaptations to complete a meaningful occupation. In the professional phase students learn to administer evaluations by administering them with clinical and non-clinical populations and learn the varied group leadership roles by designing and implementing groups with appropriate populations within the local community. A two-semester sequence of community engaged learning provides opportunities to learn more advanced needs assessment and program development for a ten-week extended period. Fieldwork and the doctoral experiential component extend this learning by doing to an even fuller and more skilled extent. Level I Fieldwork is integral to our program's curriculum design and integrated into our two clinical reasoning courses and a psychosocial intervention course. Level II Fieldwork provides students with advanced opportunities to integrate theory and skills learned in the classroom within the clinical and community settings. Site-specific assignments and reflective online assignments ensure congruence of the fieldwork experience with their academic preparation. The advanced practitioner phase of the curriculum includes a 16-week Doctoral Experiential Component where students develop advanced skills that are integral to acquiring deeper-practice scholar competencies as reflected in the program's curriculum design. The experiential component and capstone project directly connect occupational therapy practice with scholarship via the creation, implementation & evaluation of culminating projects. These continuous, sustained and in-depth Hands on learning experiences are continuous, graded, and varied in depth and breadth and reflect our commitment to provide multiple avenues for students to practice the professional values, clinical reasoning, professional performance skills and application of professional knowledge consistent with the curriculum framework of our program.

Servant Leadership, Specialty Roles and Functions: A focus on service leadership is a constant focus within our university and our curriculum places a heavy emphasis on leadership, specialty roles, and innovation and entrepreneurship focused on creating occupational therapy roles where none may currently exist or are in an embryonic stage of development. One faculty mentor supports the Student Occupational Therapy Association and another serves as an advisor to our Pi Theta Epsilon honor society, which won the 2014 Pi Theta Epsilon Presidents Award in recognition for the establishment of a highly successful student-led journal club. Students in our program return to campus after completion of their two Level II Fieldwork experiences and participate in intensive seminars focused on synthesizing their experiences from fieldwork in relation to curriculum objectives, sharing their experience from fieldwork with peers and practitioners and considering specialty and other roles beyond a generalist. The month culminates with a widely attended local symposium for the campus and professional communities where the students deliver workshops on state-of-art practice learned from fieldwork. This tradition is highly valued by local professionals representing alumni, fieldwork educators and practitioners who are seeking accessible, quality professional development. Attendance grows annually for this event.

Click here to view Duquesne University's Occupational Therapy Department Curriculum Threads and Relationship to Curriculum Design.

Footnotes: 1 Personal 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). 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. 2 Engaged or active learning includes: service learning, community-university partnership, competency testing, problem based learning, situated learning, fieldwork etc).

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