Overview of Curriculum Design

OT student doing research with child


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Overview of Curriculum Design

Our MS-OT curriculum is sequenced for the study of occupational behavior across the life span, therapeutic interventions to support occupational participation, professional skills, values and behaviors, and models of research and evidence-based practice. 
There are four strands; students take at least one course from each strand each of the four semesters of the curriculum:

  • Foundational Knowledge
  • Evidence-based Practice
  • Critical Reasoning and Clinical Decision Making
  • Professional Skills

These strands all lead the student to apply theory, core concepts and ethics to practice during fieldwork and ultimately to professional practice. Sixteen graduate level courses make up the course sequence.

The courses focus on general knowledge about occupational development, performance and disruptions, professional values and behaviors and the process of practice, and research in occupational therapy practice. The professional courses progress to more specific detail about the relationship of occupational dysfunction to social participation. Throughout the curriculum, students learn about devising and implementing interventions that relate to deficits in occupational participation amongst individuals of all ages and from a broad range of cultural, ethnic, gender, and socioeconomic diversity.

The program is designed to prepare professional, well-qualified occupational therapists who collaborate with individuals, families, groups, organizations and systems to enable participation in meaningful and culturally relevant occupations to improve health and quality of life.

The program begins with basic biological science courses early in the curriculum (human anatomy and functional neuroanatomy) (Foundation Knowledge thread) with later professional courses focused on diseases and conditions that lead to occupational dysfunction. Students take a series of courses on professional practice (Professional Skills thread). Professional Skills I introduces them to professional standards and promotes the acquisition of professional behaviors and values necessary for the therapeutic process. Next, in Professional Skills II, students develop interpersonal and communication skills and experience in group dynamics. In Professional Skills III, they develop skills for management and supervision in health, education and social systems. In Professional Skills IV, they learn program development, grant writing, and implementation of community-based programs. Students also take a series of courses designed to help them understand and intervene in conditions that impair participation in occupations across the life span (Critical Reasoning and Clinical Decision Making thread). They take: Assessment of Occupational Participation, Occupation-Based Theory and Practice, Infant and Childhood Occupations and Therapeutic Interventions, Adolescent and Young Adult Occupations and Therapeutic Interventions, and Middle and Late Adulthood Occupations and Therapeutic Interventions. 
These courses focus on

  • deficits in participation and disabilities related to age and stage of development
  • assessment of performance of activities of daily living appropriate to each age group
  • occupational therapy evidence-based intervention approaches

Students participate in fieldwork courses (Level I) associated with each of these courses in order to apply theory and knowledge learned in the classroom to clinical and community settings. Finally, they take a series of courses designed to provide the fundamentals of clinical and scientific reasoning evaluation procedures that are relevant to the practice of occupational therapy (Evidence-based Practice thread). These courses culminate in research projects, meta-analyses or systematic reviews of occupational therapy practice areas , conducted under the supervision of occupational therapy faculty. As a final project, students present their findings in the form of a research report or professional presentation to their University colleagues.

Students in the MS in OT program also have the opportunity to enroll in some elective graduate courses designed for the MS in Therapeutic Sciences or Ph.D. in Kinesiology. Relevant courses might include special topics in motor control/motor learning, sensory integration, occupation and temporality, service coordination, or policy analysis.

The final component of the MS in Occupational Therapy Program consists of 6 months of fieldwork (Level II), during which students learn how to apply knowledge gained in academic courses to clinical settings.

Specifically, they apply:

  • occupational knowledge
  • professional ethics, standards, and values
  • effective therapeutic relationships
  • knowledge of the context of service delivery
  • principles of management and systems
  • evidence-based practice to promote participation in meaningful and culturally relevant occupations

The Level II Fieldwork experience is carried out in two different clinical settings under the supervision of clinical educators.

Program Goals and Student Learning Outcomes


Foundational knowledge provides the underpinnings for understanding the motor, sensory, social, cognitive and psychological substrates of human occupation in typical and non-typical development.

  • The student will demonstrate understanding of body structures, function and pathological conditions.
  • The student will describe and critically examine multiple theories and models of practice associated with the science and research of human occupation.
  • The student will understand and appreciate the role of occupational participation on health promotion and well being and the prevention of disease and occupational dysfunction.


Understand the principles and importance of research, scientific inquiry and theory development for the advancement of the profession

  • articulate the importance of research for best practice and continued development of the profession
  • use professional literature to make informed practice decisions
  • understand and interpret basic descriptive, correlation, and inferential statistics
  • understand and critique research studies
  • understand the importance of scholarly activities that will contribute to the development of a body of knowledge relevant to the occupational therapy profession


Provide services to support and enhance participation in daily life tasks and occupations

  • assess clients’ participation in occupations and employ a collaborative approach to determine the clients’ occupational needs within the context of family and society
  • assess factors within the environment that influence participation in occupation
  • develop an occupation-based plan that encompasses the clients’ needs and desires, their ability to participate in environments, and the goals and methods to accomplish those aims
  • demonstrate the ability to analyze, grade and adapt occupation
  • employ culturally relevant occupations to support the intervention goals that are meaningful to the client
  • monitor and assess the effect of occupational therapy intervention
  • plan for discharge in collaboration with the client, terminate occupational therapy when intervention goals have been achieved or determined that they cannot be achieved and an alternative plan designed


Demonstrate and understanding and appreciation of professional values and behaviors and a role in professional conduct and lifelong learning

  • understand the values of the profession
  • understand the varied roles of the occupational therapist as practitioner, educator, researcher, and entrepreneur
  • establish appropriate therapeutic relationships with individuals, groups, organizations and systems
  • utilize effective interpersonal communication and demonstrate effective and culturally sensitive group communication
  • demonstrate use of safety precautions with the client during the process of practice
  • demonstrate knowledge about legal and ethical issues related to care in health, education, and community settings
  • accept responsibility for one’s own professional growth
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