Curriculum Design

Two over-arching and related goals of the occupational therapy curriculum are to produce graduates who possess the:

  1. competencies to enable clients in general occupational therapy practice settings to participate in occupation;
  2. foundation needed for lifelong learning to maintain and enhance professional competence, including professional specialization, research, administration, and teaching. 

Becoming a competent occupational therapist requires students to acquire and apply knowledge and skills, collectively referred to as “content,” in a way that is unique to the profession, i.e., our “ways of knowing” as occupational therapists. Our curriculum design conceptualizes the interplay between content and “ways of knowing” as a filter (see figure below), in which students interact with content as it is “filtered” through an epistemology unique to occupational therapy, producing graduates with the skills to enable client-centered participation in occupation for varied clients in a range of practice settings.

 Puget Sound Occupational Therapy Department Curricular Design, View 1.

Puget Sound Occupational Therapy Department Curricular Design, View 2 (top looking down).


For readers whose understanding is enhanced by metaphor, our curriculum design can be pictured like a manual coffee drip system (appropriate for a program in the Pacific Northwest!). Heatis applied to water (curricular content) until it is boiled into a lively, active state (learning activities). The boiling water is poured into the cone where it filters through ground coffee, roasted to perfection because centuries of skill have passed down through the ages (“ways of knowing”). This process transforms the water into an everyday, but vital and necessary, elixir of brewed coffee (ability to enable client-centered participation in occupation).

 Finally, our curriculum design reflects an approach to teaching and learning that relies upon both classroom and community experiences to support students’ mastery of content and ability to “think like an occupational therapist.” In the graphic of the curriculum design, this process is reflected in a recursive experiential learning cycle that circles and supports the curricular structure, providing the “heat” necessary to support the “percolation” of content and “ways of knowing” that lead to entry-level competencies for occupational therapy practice.