Title

Moving beyond body structures and functions: Foregrounding human capacity for occupation

Location

New River Room B

Start Time

3-10-2015 1:00 PM

End Time

3-10-2015 2:30 PM

Session Type

Theoretical Paper

Abstract

Since its inception, some scholars have described occupational science as the science that “underpins” occupational therapy and is the core body of knowledge for the profession (Clark et al., 1991; Mitcham, 2014). Over the past decade there has been interest in how occupation is considered in educational curricula. In 2006 Hooper introduced the profession to the concept of subject-centered education, the subject in this case being occupation. Hooper et al.’s (2013) ground breaking, comprehensive study of how occupation is addressed in curricula has provided some preliminary examples of how occupation is conceived in educational programs. However, to date there are few descriptions in the literature of pedagogical strategies that prevent occupation from fading into the background while more peripheral subjects, such as those related to body structures and functions, are foregrounded.

Throughout the history of occupational therapy, what should be taught and how it should be taught has been a source of discussion and often a source of tension. Deciding on the balance between biomedical content, such as anatomy, with content reflecting the moral treatment philosophy, such as coursework in personal and mental hygiene and arts and crafts, was greatly debated by the founders of occupational therapy (Coleman, 1990). As the field became more entrenched in biomedical practices, knowledge of body structures and functions came to be viewed as core content in occupational therapy education programs. Often, anatomists and neurologists were responsible for teaching this content through lectures and cadaver labs, with little application to occupation or occupational therapy practice. While many programs currently offer courses in anatomy and neuroscience that are more closely tied to occupational therapy, the content of these courses are often considered foundational and perhaps separate from the core subject of occupation. For example, students might learn the muscles of the shoulder, consider the movement that results, and then apply this motion to a decontextualized activity. This paper will highlight one program’s process of translating knowledge about the human capacity for occupation into coursework. We will describe the creation of courses that move beyond body structures and functions by embracing a subject-centered, that is, occupation-centered, approach. Rather than foregrounding body structures and functions, we begin with occupation and explore the human and nonhuman factors that facilitate and inhibit performance and participation in these occupations. The conceptual basis for this change and specific strategies for implementing curricular and course-specific reformation are discussed.

Key Words:

Education, subject-centered, translation

Discussion Points:

What are the challenges to teaching a course such as the one described?

What are the challenges to learners in a course such as the one described?

How does knowledge about human capacity move beyond understanding anatomy and physiology?

References

Clark, F.A., Parham, D., Carlson, M.E., Frank, G., Jackson, J., Pierce, D., Wolfe, R., & Zemke, R. (1991). Occupational science: Academic innovation in the service of occupational therapy’s future. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 45, 300-310.

Colman, W. (1990). Evolving educational practices in occupational therapy: The war emergency courses, 1936-1954. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 44, 1028-1036.

Hooper, B. (2006). Epistemological transformation in occupational therapy: Educational implications and challenges. OTJR: Occupation, Participation & Health, 26(1), 15-24.

Hooper, B., Krishnagiri, S., Price, P., Bilics, A., Taff, S., & Mitcham, M. (2013, October). Determining how the construct of occupation is addressed in curricula . Conference presentation, 12th Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Occupation, Lexington, KY.

Mitcham, M. D. (2014). Education as engine (Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lecture). American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68, 636–648. http://dx.doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2014.686001

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Oct 3rd, 1:00 PM Oct 3rd, 2:30 PM

Moving beyond body structures and functions: Foregrounding human capacity for occupation

New River Room B

Since its inception, some scholars have described occupational science as the science that “underpins” occupational therapy and is the core body of knowledge for the profession (Clark et al., 1991; Mitcham, 2014). Over the past decade there has been interest in how occupation is considered in educational curricula. In 2006 Hooper introduced the profession to the concept of subject-centered education, the subject in this case being occupation. Hooper et al.’s (2013) ground breaking, comprehensive study of how occupation is addressed in curricula has provided some preliminary examples of how occupation is conceived in educational programs. However, to date there are few descriptions in the literature of pedagogical strategies that prevent occupation from fading into the background while more peripheral subjects, such as those related to body structures and functions, are foregrounded.

Throughout the history of occupational therapy, what should be taught and how it should be taught has been a source of discussion and often a source of tension. Deciding on the balance between biomedical content, such as anatomy, with content reflecting the moral treatment philosophy, such as coursework in personal and mental hygiene and arts and crafts, was greatly debated by the founders of occupational therapy (Coleman, 1990). As the field became more entrenched in biomedical practices, knowledge of body structures and functions came to be viewed as core content in occupational therapy education programs. Often, anatomists and neurologists were responsible for teaching this content through lectures and cadaver labs, with little application to occupation or occupational therapy practice. While many programs currently offer courses in anatomy and neuroscience that are more closely tied to occupational therapy, the content of these courses are often considered foundational and perhaps separate from the core subject of occupation. For example, students might learn the muscles of the shoulder, consider the movement that results, and then apply this motion to a decontextualized activity. This paper will highlight one program’s process of translating knowledge about the human capacity for occupation into coursework. We will describe the creation of courses that move beyond body structures and functions by embracing a subject-centered, that is, occupation-centered, approach. Rather than foregrounding body structures and functions, we begin with occupation and explore the human and nonhuman factors that facilitate and inhibit performance and participation in these occupations. The conceptual basis for this change and specific strategies for implementing curricular and course-specific reformation are discussed.

Key Words:

Education, subject-centered, translation

Discussion Points:

What are the challenges to teaching a course such as the one described?

What are the challenges to learners in a course such as the one described?

How does knowledge about human capacity move beyond understanding anatomy and physiology?