Program Overview: Mission, Philosophy & Educational Goals

The mission of the Occupational Therapy Program at Alabama State University is to serve the city of Montgomery, the state, the nation and global community. The program is also designed for those students whose interests and aptitude carry them beyond routine classroom experiences.

The curriculum, through a logical and developmental sequence of learning and service create an environment that will prepare and graduate proficient entry-level therapists who demonstrate competency in evidenced-based clinical practice in the profession of occupational therapy. Additionally, the curriculum:

•    Prepares students to work with diverse populations in varied settings.

•    Promotes critical thinking, ethical decision making skills, and clinical reasoning to further knowledge of occupation and efficacy of practice and research.

•    Develops professionals who are able to communicate, understand and apply the science of occupation and who are dedicated to a life long learning process.

•    Involves faculty and students in public service programs by providing them with research based guidance on policy and program approaches and initiatives for addressing community problems.

•    Strives to improve the underrepresentation of minorities in the field of occupational therapy.

•    Fosters an environment that supports experiential and self-directed learning and promotes personal and professional development for eligible students, regardless of socioeconomic status.

•    Emphasizes the role of purposeful activity and occupation and adaptation in development throughout the lifespan.

Program Philosophy

The Alabama State University Department of Occupational Therapy has the following beliefs about the nature of occupational therapy. Occupational therapy views humans holistically, which includes aspects of social, moral, cultural, ethical, physical, developmental, temporal, spiritual, and mental well-being. Through the interaction of these contexts, humans evolve, change, and adapt. Occupational therapy educators promote the use of purposeful activity and occupation to facilitate health and well-being utilizing a client-centered approach.

The profession of occupational therapy is unique and dynamic and serves to assist the community in attaining overall health and wellness. The central foci of occupational therapy are the concepts of purposeful activity and occupation. “Occupation is the dominant activity of human beings that includes serious, productive pursuits and playful, creative and festive behaviors. It is the result of evolutionary processes culminating in biological, psychological, and social need for both playful and productive activity.”

Kielhofner, Forsyth and Barrett (2003) asserted that:

•    Occupation is dynamic and context dependent.

•    Occupation is essential to self-organization.

•    Practitioners must actively use theory as a way to understand clients and decide the course of occupational therapy.

•    Occupation can be used to facilitate adaptation to the environment or facilitate the deliberate manipulation of the environment.

Occupation is a lifelong occurrence that evolves and requires adaptation throughout the lifespan of the individual. The evolution of occupation can be affected by age, environment, disease, and other factors. The absence or disruption of occupation is a threat to the health and well being of the individual. In contrast, the selection of an appropriate occupation is an effective means of restoring health and function. Occupations have purpose and are performed with different outcomes in mind (Baum & Christiansen, 2005).

The philosophy of education reflects our beliefs regarding the complexity and diversity of our students, and their varying needs during the learning process. Moving from undergraduate to graduate education, the educational philosophy rests upon the principles of adult learning (Cross, 1981; Knowles, 1984). Adult learning is best facilitated by what Malcolm Knowles describes as the design of learning which emphasizes the following: (1) students need to know why they need to learn something, (2) students need to learn experientially, (3) students approach learning as problem solving, and (4) students learn best when the topic is of immediate value. Cross’ characteristics of adults as learners, emphasizes the experience of the learner, adaptive teaching/learning strategies, personal development, and autonomy.

We believe occupational therapy education should promote the integration of theoretical constructs and frames of reference to guide occupational therapy practice. It is through collaborative learning experiences, experiential learning, and critical inquiry that students build knowledge, skills, and abilities to readily identify occupation and its use as the primary method of assessment, intervention, and health promotion. By encouraging critical inquiry and clinical reasoning, students are empowered with the tools to adapt and facilitate the client’s engagement in occupation to support participation in a dynamic and diverse world.

Graduates of Alabama State University Occupational Therapy Program will:

1.    Expand scholastic skills for personal, occupational, and professional growth.

2.    Develop a dedication to life-long learning and commitment to public/community service.

3.    Demonstrate professional behaviors that are congruent with the core values and code of ethics and standards of the occupational therapy profession.

4.    Utilize the occupational therapy practice framework as a guide for decision making regarding patient care and outcomes.

5.    Use evidence based practice as a means to identify and guide best occupational therapy practice.

6.    Examine the impact of physical, social, temporal, cognitive, psychological, spiritual, environmental, and cultural contexts that impact occupational performance.

7.    Evaluate and develop goals and intervention plans in conjunction with the client, their support system, and other healthcare team members to provide a comprehensive, holistic and client-centered approach to care.

8.    Understand the importance of advocacy and promotion of the occupational therapy profession, as well as the role of other health professionals and the importance of the interprofessional team.

9.    Participate as consumers and producers of research.

10.    Be competent as an entry level therapist with the ability to work in a diverse healthcare delivery system and appreciate the different roles of occupational therapists working in varying healthcare systems.

11.    Be competent in communication skills, leadership, and critical thinking.

12.    In some instances, represent the pool of under-represented minorities in the field of occupational therapy.

These educational goals are dynamic and interdependent of each other. Throughout the educational process, the program strives to provide a firm support system, nourish each student as a whole person, and draw upon and strengthen students' cultural and academic roots so that they may be transplanted to any environment and adapt to varied applications of occupational therapy practice.