Our Vision, Mission, and Philosophy
CSU-OT attracts and welcomes students from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. CSU-OT fosters graduates who will be collaborative and enduring change agents and leaders in the state, nation and world through exemplary and integrated programs of education, research, and outreach that meet real world occupational needs. Graduates will be grounded in the perspective of occupation, be sensitive and respectful to self and others, and will have the skills and knowledge to positively influence all individuals, groups, communities, populations and the occupational therapy profession.
The occupational therapy department seeks to optimize human performance and participation in everyday occupations, across all contexts and throughout the lifespan. We do this through excellence in teaching, research, service and outreach. Consistent with the mission of CSU, a land-grant institution, CSU-OT strives to develop reflective and intentional practitioners and researchers with a wide range of background and experiences to work, in all capacities, alongside diverse communities to benefit the people of Colorado, the United States, and the world through meeting their complex and ever changing occupational needs.
Philosophy of Occupational Therapy
Our philosophical statement of occupational therapy serves as the basis for our current curriculum design:
Occupational therapy optimizes the ability of individuals, groups, communities, and populations to perform and participate in the activities that they need, want and are expected to do each day, thus enabling them to participate fully in society. Occupation and participation therefore support health and well-being across the lifespan. We believe that human performance and participation in everyday occupations across the lifespan is the core subject of the profession, and thus comprises the core subject of our entry-level occupational therapy doctorate and masters programs and serve as a foundation for our PhD in Occupation and Rehabilitation Science. Shared attention to human performance and occupational participation also links our faculty’s respective programs of research and our departmental research agenda, our community outreach programs, and our service to CSU, local, national, and international community, and our profession.
Occupation refers to the activities that people do as individuals, in families and with communities to occupy time and bring meaning and purpose to life (Occupational Therapy Practice Framework [OTPF], 2020). Our focus on everyday occupations addresses daily activities that people do on a recurring basis while engaged in diverse life pursuits and social roles, across multiple everyday contexts. From birth through old age, everyday occupations can both support and disrupt routine, meaning, and purpose in daily life; they can also favorably and unfavorably influence health and well-being. Everyday contexts are daily living settings like schools, homes, workplaces or neighborhoods, in which occupations take place. Contexts are complex constructions that include the physical (environmental) and human (personal) factors specific to each individual, and which share a reciprocal relationship with occupational performance and participation (OTPF, 2020).
Changes in the quality and/or quantity of occupational participation can profoundly affect an individual’s health, identity, and well-being. Such changes may occur due to a number of reasons, including a significant life event or transition, an illness or injury, a natural disaster, or a change in society, policy, or the economy (Nizzero et al., 2017). Occupational therapists are uniquely equipped to promote performance and participation for individuals, groups, and communities in the face of occupational disruptions by utilizing the strengths and supports found in environmental and personal factors.
We believe that occupation-centered practice, delivered using collaborative and contextualized practice principles, reflects that occupation is at the center of our knowledge and should guide all our actions. Thus, the central role of occupation as both a means and an end to services unifies the focus and outcomes of occupational therapy services. The outcomes of OT services may address health promotion, wellness, and prevention, to habilitation, restoration, compensation, and adaptation. As reflected in the American Occupational Therapy Association [AOTA] Philosophy of OT (2017), use of occupation to promote individual, group, community and population health is the core of occupational therapy practice, education, research, and advocacy.
In our educational programs, Interdisciplinary perspectives and collaborations are essential to building new knowledge of human performance and occupational participation and to applying that knowledge to help people who face daily living challenges. In our educational, research, outreach, and service endeavors, we are thus committed to growing interdisciplinary collaborations and to integrating scholarship from related health disciplines, the social and biological sciences, and the humanities. We are particularly interested in integrating the perspectives of occupational science and rehabilitation science, each of which makes substantive contributions to understanding human performance and occupational participation. With its focus on the study of occupation, occupational science helps to explain how participation in everyday occupations and contexts influences meaning and purpose in life, as well as health and well-being. With its focus on performance mainly at the task level, rehabilitation science helps to explain relationships among bodily structures and functions, environmental factors and how individuals with impairments can perform specific tasks. Integration of knowledge from these two sciences, as well as other relevant disciplines, creates new perspectives that can guide practitioners and scientists alike who are dedicated to understanding the complex transactions that occur among performance components and capacities, contextual factors and participation in everyday occupations.
Teaching and Learning Philosophy
The practice of occupational therapy is complex, in part because the profession serves to meet the occupational needs of an ever-changing society. Given its complexity, best practice in occupational therapy requires a deep base of knowledge that helps each student develop a professional identity as an occupational therapist. That knowledge base must directly address the use of occupation in facilitating change, growth, adaptation, and occupational participation toward the goals of health and wellness, quality of life, well-being and occupational justice (OTPF, 2020). In preparing our graduates to be collaborative and enduring change agents and leaders in our profession, our curriculum thereby embraces learner-centered and subject-centered learning, where the core subject is occupation and individuals are considered occupational beings. Consistent with the educational philosophy of the AOTA (2017), our curriculum centers study on the core subject of human performance and participation in everyday occupations and contexts across the lifespan at both the clinical doctoral and Ph.D. levels.
Being learner-centered, we believe that integrative and experiential learning enables students’ transformation into intentional life- long learners. Becoming a life-long learner is an essential attribute of occupational therapists who remain grounded in the philosophy of the profession, while also being able to adapt practice and services to meet the changing needs of society. We see that learning occurs when students are active, not passive learners. Learning is engendered when students create and work towards individualized goals and outcomes, participate in learning communities with others, and integrate experiences.
Optimal learning occurs when students
- are active rather than passive learners
- integrate real-world experience with the scholarship-of-practice process and disciplinary knowledge of OT
- reflect on assumptions, beliefs and values undergirding experiences
- participate in learning communities of peers, instructors, scholars, and mentors of various communities
- select and work towards student-determined goals and outcomes
Further, we believe teaching is an iterative process that involves creating significant learning experiences that challenge students to work towards the highest levels of Bloom’s taxonomy of learning outcomes (Anderson, & Krathwohl, 2001) and develop significant learning skills that add to this taxonomy, as described by Fink (2013). Both models of learning begin with knowledge acquisition, include application and integration/analysis. Fink embraces additional learning: learning about oneself and others (human dimension), developing new feelings, interests, and values (caring), and importantly, becoming a self-directed learner with an ongoing drive to inquire (learning how to learn). Fink’s model touches the human core of occupational therapy and explicates for us not only the cognitive taxonomy developed by Bloom, but also the affective taxonomy of learning. Significant learning is not seen as hierarchical, instead significant learning emerges through the interaction of these forms of learning; for instance, combining foundational knowledge, application, and integration, with the human dimension and caring can be seen as students learn and apply a foundation of neuroscience to the development of an intervention plan through a clinical experience working with an individual with a Traumatic Brain Injury. By creating significant learning opportunities through teaching, students develop their skills in professional and clinical reason and critical thinking.
Consistent with these foundational beliefs, we see that integration of the scholarship-of-practice process as described by Boyer (1990) allows opportunity for students to engage in their disciplinary knowledge and skills while also providing services to the community; tapping into all dimensions of learning described by Fink. This in turn provides experiences upon which students can reflect upon and continue to engage in the critical thinking process , thus not only gaining new knowledge and skills but also advancing their ways of knowing as defined by Baxter Magolda and King (2004). The scholarship of practice process also allows students to be knowledge generators, which in turn will influence their professional goals and identity.
American Occupational Therapy Association (2017). Philosophical base of occupational therapy. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 71(Suppl. 2), 72112410045, S65. DOI: 10.5014/ajot.2017.716S06
Anderson, L.W., & Krathwohl, D.R. (2001). A taxonomy for teaching, learning, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. New York, NY: Longman.
Baxter Magolda, M. & King, P. (2004). Learning partnerships: Theories and models of practice to educate for self-authorship. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
Boyer, E.L. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered. Priorities of the Professoriate. New York, NY: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
Fink, L.D. (2013). Creating significant learning experiences. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.