Doctor of Occupational Therapy Curriculum Design

OTD Curriculum Model

Curricular Model

While the professional doctoral degree curriculum was developed with the AOTA Occupational Therapy Model Curriculum* and Blueprint for Entry-level Education** in mind; the curriculum provides learning opportunities designed for the synthesis of content in a sequential and progressive manner and strikes an integrated balance between foundational, applied, clinical, and behavioral sciences. Additionally, the faculty embrace the belief that occupational therapy core values, professional behaviors and constructs of practice are central to the educational process and are an integral part of the curriculum. The Methodist University Doctor of Occupational Therapy (MU OTD) Program also values an evidence-based and theory-driven approach for clinical decision making in the development of a contemporary, authentic clinician. Inherently this requires active engagement in scholarly inquiry. As such, our curriculum has a capstone research component that emphasizes a deliberate and collaborative effort between faculty and students to enhance the body of knowledge for the profession of occupational therapy and/or the delivery of occupational therapy education.

The MU OTD Program faculty believe that the theoretical underpinnings supporting the program’s curriculum are also in alignment with the profession’s vision for the future of occupational therapy practice as intended in the AOTA Vision 2025*** and AOTA’s Centennial Vision.****

The MU OTD Program curriculum is delivered as a blend of traditional and systems-based occupational therapy education. The traditional aspect of the curriculum begins with a strong foundation in the sciences and theories related to occupational therapy practice, which serves as the scaffolding upon which the professional behaviors and authentic, occupation-based practice courses are built. Additionally, the occupational needs of individuals across the lifespan are addressed within the systems-based content areas and integrated horizontally throughout the curriculum with foundations, professionalism, leadership, and evidence of best practice.

Expert and experienced clinicians serve as lab assistants, guest lecturers, primary course instructors, clinical instructors, and provide ongoing feedback regarding individual course content and overall curricular structure.  In addition, it is expected that all clinically-trained faculty members will maintain an active clinical practice.  This expectation provides students with the opportunity to learn from faculty who practice in their respective areas of expertise.  It also provides faculty with “real life” clinical examples allowing them to reinforce curricular content through clinical patient scenarios. Within this model, the integration of clinicians with occupational therapy faculty who are actively involved in regular clinical practice is elevated as the preferred method for creating an authentic, contemporary learning experience that connects the classroom to current and emerging practice settings.

*OT Model Curriculum Ad Hoc Committee. (2008). Occupational therapy model curriculum. Retrieved from
**American Occupational Therapy Association. (2010). Blueprint for Entry-Level Education. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 64(1):186-203. doi: 10.5014/ajot.64.1.186.
***American Occupational Therapy Association. (2017). Vision 2025. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 71, 7103420010.
****American Occupational Therapy Association. (2006). Centennial Vision. Retrieved from

Curricular Themes

Students enrolled in the MU OTD Program will follow a prescribed sequence of courses that are organized around six curricular themes:

Occupational Performance Foundations

Foundation content is organized by areas of study, such as anatomy, health conditions, biomechanics, neuroscience, and theory courses, and generally come before applied intervention content. The foundation courses occur in semesters I-III. Lifespan issues are addressed in each course.

Professional Behavior and Issues

The professional behavior series is an example of how the curriculum plan sequences and integrates learning experiences. This series emphasizes development of professional behaviors and communication skills and focuses on integrating curricular content in the context of therapeutic practice skills. Students learn how to communicate as a member of inter-professional teams, manage different client populations, and negotiate professional practice settings.  Students engage in self-assessment of professionalism, receive faculty and advisor feedback, and develop personal goals to facilitate their lifelong professional growth.

Scholarly Inquiry and Evidence-Based Practice

The evidence-based practice and research series grounds students in the skills required to select and interpret evidence through both course work and experiential learning. Skills are reinforced by means of class assignments woven throughout the curriculum. The students participate in a faculty-defined clinical or community-engaged research question designed to expose students to the entire process of inquiry and writing.  The progressive course series will allow students to investigate a research question, perform a literature review, collect and analyze data, and disseminate results.

Authentic and Ethical Occupation-based Practice

The coursework that addresses skills essential to engaging in the occupational therapy process gives students the knowledge and skills needed to assess and improve the needs of people with chronic conditions and disabilities, those at risk for chronic conditions and disabilities, and those who want to stay healthy and active. This approach is necessary, as the health system frequently changes, and in addition to practicing with individuals, occupational therapy practitioners will be working with organizations and populations to maximize the abilities of all persons to fully participate in society. Students are taught the importance of authentic, occupation-based practice in which meaningful occupation (functional activities) is the means and the end of all interventions.

Professional Leadership

The MU OTD Program curriculum has a focus on developing skills that allow students to be natural professional leaders and adopt servant-leader advocacy practices for their clients and the profession.  Students will gain knowledge and skills to manage organizations, negotiate the impact of policy on care provided, and disseminate professional knowledge to colleagues and future practitioners.

Community-Engaged Clinical Education

The clinical education series provides students with opportunities to apply didactic material in a variety of clinical settings. Both immersive and intentional experiences in the community empower students to meet the physical and mental health needs of a variety of client populations by partnering with high-quality community agencies and facilities. Clinical education is placed strategically throughout the curriculum to facilitate student learning.

Student Learning Outcomes

Students and graduates will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate the knowledge and skills necessary for entry-level occupational therapy practice across a variety of practice areas (Occupational Performance Foundations).
  2. Demonstrate effective communication skills and ethical negotiation of practice settings to function effectively as a member of an inter-professional health care team (Professional Behavior and Issues).
  3. Engage in contemporary critical thinking for client-centered care that incorporates evidence-based decision making in the practice of occupational therapy, documentation of outcomes, and the generation of new knowledge (Scholarly Inquiry and Evidence-based Practice).
  4. Practice as autonomous clinicians who utilize authentic and ethical occupational therapy approaches in the spirit of collaboration as an integral member of inter-professional care teams (Authentic and Ethical Occupation-based Practice).
  5. Adopt a servant-leadership identity to engage in lifelong learning through active participation in professional development activities including continuing education, post-graduate education, clinical specialty, advanced certification, local/regional/national presentations, and research activities (Professional Leadership).
  6. Demonstrate a commitment to promoting participation, health, wellness, disease prevention, and access to care in the clinical settings and communities they serve (Community-Engaged Clinical Education).