Curriculum Design: Locally grown. World impact.
Agriculture is the heartbeat of the lower Mississippi delta including the home of Arkansas State University, Jonesboro, AR. Agriculture influences every facet of Jonesboro life from economy and culture to education, healthcare, and business. Hardworking, sun up to sun down people forge this land and take great pride in what they grow for the United States and beyond. Jonesboro, AR produces large amounts of two staple crops that are essential to our country; cotton and rice. Therefore, we have chosen to change our curriculum design from a river to the cotton plant. We think the cotton plant better reflects the culture of our program, university, and geographical region.
The cotton plant is a plant with deep roots, a stem, leaves, flowers, and bolls. What is interesting about the cotton plant is that its utility comes after the stems, leaves, and flowers appear lifeless. When the stem and leaves turn brown and the flowers close, a mature boll emerges with a white fluffy mass that is used to create millions of products. Farmers and Occupational Therapy have something in common. Both often go unnoticed until what we have to offer is needed for people to survive and thrive. Just as Jonesboro Farmers grow cotton to provide the world with a basic ingredient for the manufacturing of food, clothes, and other products, the Occupational Therapy department at Arkansas State University is dedicated to growing educated practitioners to provide services in a region that has a dearth of healthcare providers. Moreover, with more practitioners in the region, we can transform the landscape from meeting basic healthcare needs to developing ideas and interventions that influence the world.
The following is a pictorial representation of the new curriculum design:
Soil, nutrients and roots (unseen): The soil is the professional and educational philosophy of Occupational Therapy from which everything grows. The Theory of Occupational Adaptation and OT-PEP provides the nutrients and roots that anchor the curriculum design.
The stem: Bloom’s Taxonomy and the Spatiotemporal Adaptation Theory is the developmental stalk providing a strong core to develop outcomes.
The bolls: The curricular core concepts of professional reasoning, occupation and evidence-based practice, ethics and occupational justice, leadership and advocacy, cultural awareness, health and wellness, and OTA/OTD collaboration.
It is appropriate that our curriculum model is the cotton plant as we intend to convert the bolls into threads that become the fabric of our department. Wendy Wood (1995) described the “Warp and Weft” of Occupational Therapy as follows. The warp of the tapestry “consists of those anchoring, longitudinal thread that give rise to the tapestry's core fabric” (p. 44). The warp represents engagement in occupation as a medium for health. The warp of our program consists of threads that represent foundation principles and unique features of the program.
Professional reasoning: The previous curriculum streams of foundational sciences, fundamental skills, and lifespan development are incorporated into professional reasoning along with a greater emphasis on the clinical reasoning process including the guiding theory of Occupational Adaptation. Fleming (1991), in her article, the Therapist with the Three-Track Mind, first articulated the thinking process of an occupational therapist as procedural, interactive, and conditional. A fourth track, narrative reasoning, was added later. The purpose of the professional reasoning thread is to develop the learner’ ability to name and frame clinical situations appropriate reasoning for the best outcome. As the OT-PEP points out learners need all four types of reasoning in order to think adaptively, reflect, and create meaning.
Scholarly inquiry: The original 5-course research sequence will be reduced to 4 in the new scholarly inquiry thread: Scholarly inquiry 1: Evidence-based practice, scholarly inquiry 2: Quantitative methods, scholarly inquiry 3: Descriptive and qualitative methods, and scholarly inquiry 4: Application of scholarship. The new thread still represents the necessary information about evidence-based practice, attaining and applying scholarly resources, and culminating in the use of methods and measurements to produce a scholarly report suitable for presentation and/or publication.
Ethics and Occupational Justice: The previous Occupation curricular domain that supplied students with the understanding, application and creation of concepts, interventions, and products that reflect the unique perspective of occupation in the life of a human-being will now include a unifying thread of ethics and occupational justice. The courses will move from an implicit to explicit lens that considers the ethical, social, economic, political, and environmental opportunities and barriers to occupational participation in a rural setting.
According to Wood (1995), it is the weft, or the colored threads that fill in the warp as they are delicately woven in and out by hand, that gives the tapestry life. The unique nature of the program at Arkansas State University comes to life in the curricular threads of OTA/OTD collaboration, cultural awareness, and leadership and advocacy.
OTA/OTD Collaboration: Arkansas State University is unique in that it has both OTA and OTD programs in the department. Although the programs operate independently, multiple opportunities occur for the two levels of practitioners to collaborate on assignments and other activities. Such collaboration assists both levels of practitioners to better understand their professional roles prior to entering clinical practice.
Health and wellness: The state of Arkansas ranks 48th in the nation for health (United Health Foundation, 2016) https://www.americashealthrankings.org/explore/annual/measure/Overall/state/AR). Other health statistics include 2nd for Stroke, 4th for heart disease, and 6th for cancer related deaths (CDC, 2014) https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/states/arkansas.htm. Therefore, health and wellness must be included in the curriculum. Courses such as Population Health and Health Care Delivery Systems help students address the health and wellness needs of local, state, and regional populations. Additionally, the level III doctoral experience provides an opportunity for students to implement programs that address health and wellness needs.
Cultural awareness: We chose the term cultural awareness instead of cultural competency because of our belief in relative mastery and the need for lifelong learning. Courses such as History of Occupational Science, From Process to Practice, and the clinical courses all have elements that assist the student in becoming a culturally aware practitioner. Early coursework includes cultural awareness as part of our profession’s ethical responsibility. Second year clinical coursework emphasizes cultural awareness as part of our “commitment to promoting inclusion, participation, safety, and well-being for all recipients in various stages of life, health, and illness and to empowering all beneficiaries of service to meet their occupational needs” (AOTA, 2015, p. 1).
Advocacy and Leadership: From the History of Occupational Science to the culmination courses of Advocacy and Leadership, Development & Assessment, and the Level III Fieldwork: Doctoral Rotation advocacy and leadership is a continuous thread. In the introductory courses, students learn that advocacy is an ongoing part of being an Occupational Therapy professional. In more advanced courses like Advocacy and Leadership, students learn about leadership theories, generational characteristics of leadership, leadership in different settings, and the uniqueness of one’s individual leadership journey.
Upon completion of the Occupational Therapy Doctorate program at Arkansas State University, graduates will:
- Use professional reasoning to name and frame clinical situations in order to provide evidence and occupation-based interventions.
- Develop and carry out entry-level clinical research.
- Provide intervention that is ethically, socially, economically, politically, and environmentally relevant to individuals and populations in the lower Mississippi delta region.
- Understand the roles and responsibilities of OTA and OT practitioners to create collaborative partnerships in all settings.
- Develop and implement health and wellness programs for local, state, and regional populations.
- Use cultural awareness strategies to administer appropriate interventions for all persons.
- Apply leadership theories, factors, and contexts in order to develop and implement a capstone doctoral experience.
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