Occupational Therapy Curriculum Design

Our curriculum design is portrayed in the symbol of the tree of life. This tree reflects our beliefs about the complexity and interactive nature of human learning. The process of learning symbolized by the tree is recursive. The tree is growing in a rich environment that nurtures the unique development and emergence of the professional identity. Each student learns from faculty, each other, our professional scholars, and expert clinicians. Each member of the learning community grows from these interactions and changes the learning environment. Faculty, staff, and students in our learning community engage in these interactions reflectively considering the potential impact on ot‌‌‌hers and the profession.‌

  • The Roots consist of the foundational knowledge students need to become an exemplary practitioner as well as the knowledge they bring with them to the program;
  • The trunk symbolizes the learning process including problem based learning pedagogies, active-engaged experiences, service-learning, inter-professional experiences, fieldwork, mentoring, and co-curricular activities.
  • The tree branches symbolize the growth of the skills, abilities, and professional behaviors of the entry level clinician graduating from our program.  The tree’s branches circle back to its roots, demonstrating the continual process of learning and the integration of new information with prior knowledge as an occupational therapist grows throughout a lifetime of practice. 

The Curricular Sequence and Co-curricular Activities

The curricular sequence begins with the solid roots of basic knowledge and skills for occupational therapy; the sciences, therapeutic use of self, occupational therapy theory, and activity analysis. Next, students engage in three semesters of problem-based learning courses with associated labs, seminars, and fieldwork experiences. They end with advanced courses and activities appropriate for those about to enter the profession. The course series each build upon earlier courses in a recursive process that layers and scaffolds greater complexity of thinking over the foundations of basic content knowledge.

Embedded in the curriculum are multiple co-curricular opportunities for students to engage in collaboration with faculty and each other.

Foundations (Roots)


Professional Engagement and EBP (Branch)

Professional Relationships (Branch)

Occupational Therapy Process (Branch)



Branches from Introduction to OT

Branches from Therapeutic Use of Self

Branches from all foundational courses & the Problem Based Learning Process

Introduction to OT

PBL Process

Research I & II

Health & Wellness

PBL, Topics, and Laboratories in Mental Health, Pediatrics & Adolescence, and Adults & Geriatrics

Applied Functional Anatomy & Neuroscience

Active Engaged Learning

Capstone I & II

Level I FW


Therapeutic Use of Self

Inter-professional Learning Experiences


FW Seminars

Needs Assessment & Program Development

Human Conditions Across the Lifespan

Service Learning



Health, Prevention, & Well-being

Human Occupation & Activity Analysis


Leadership & Management


Health Policy & Law





Capstone Poster Presentations

Lunches & Movies

Curricular review & program evaluation surveys/focus groups

Pre-program Quizzes



IPE Experiences & Service Learning

Service Learning


Pi Theta

Peer Mentoring

IPE Experiences


ConnOTA/AOTA Conference




Student Conclave




Capitol Hill Day




Mock Interviews


The curriculum and the co-curricular activities combine to allow our program to meet the following program objectives.

Program Objectives

Our PRIDE vision was further distilled into program objectives to match the ideas reflected in PRIDE, as well as our mission and our philosophy of learning statement.

Consistent with our vision of PRIDE, by graduation our students will:‌

  • Practice in a safe, legal, and ethical manner.
  • Respond to unmet needs in underserved communities through leadership, advocacy, or service.
  • Identify areas for creativity and innovation in practice and scholarship.
  • Demonstrate self-reflection.
  • Exhibit critical thinking, clinical reasoning, and competence in skills requisite for entry-level occupational therapy practice.
  • Engage in professional activities.

Curriculum Design and Approach to Learning

See what Dr. R. Kent Crookston, author of Working with Problem Faculty:  A 6-Step Guide for Department Chairs (2012), published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. says about the ‎‌‎‌curriculum design and approach to learning.

The curriculum utilizes a Problem Based Learning (PBL) approach. PBL incorporates small group tutorials led by expert faculty members or clinical practitioners, designed to bridge course content with practice by having students actively engage in the clinical reasoning process through case studies.

Students solve clinical problems through self-directed and peer group study, evidence-based research and discussion in order to integrate a theoretical and foundational knowledge base into the application of occupational therapy assessment and intervention strategies and skills. ‌‌Students actively engage in and develop the clinical reasoning skills requisite to team collaboration, leadership and evidenced-based practice.

‌PBL provides students with the foundation for self-directed, life-long learning necessary for a practicing professional. The curriculum incorporates fieldwork and community-based practice opportunities where students actively use clinical reasoning in the design of assessment, intervention and follow up strategies based on evidence, leadership, supervision and management, research and entrepreneurship. Students are provided with a strong educational background to address the physical, cognitive, emotional, social and spiritual needs of their clients in order to design occupation based interventions which enable clients to participate optimally in their own living environments of work, school, play, home, society and community.

Class Size and Structure

‌‌‎The maximum class size is 55. Faculty/student ratios are determined by teaching/learning strategies. Typical faculty/student ratios in laboratories are 15-18 to one with additional faculty during more intensive labs. PBL tutorials are in a small group format, typically with 6-8 students per facilitator. The faculty for this program is highly involved with the students and gets to know them well as individuals and future colleagues.