The philosophy of the Occupational Therapy Assistant Program is based in the Philosophical base of Occupational Therapy (AOTA, 2011). As presented in this document “Occupations are activities that bring meaning to the daily lives of individuals, families, and communities and enable them to participate in society”. Occupational therapy, as a profession, primarily attends to the need to engage in meaningful occupations as a foundation for social participation. Participation reflects the ways that occupations and contexts interact with the person characteristics. This dynamic interaction reveals the quality and appropriateness of occupational performance.
Occupations are essential for live and for the human being development. It is our understanding that the worth of occupations to the humankind is extraordinary: from the subsistence and survival needs to the most sophisticated accomplishments, occupations are critical. The beliefs about occupations and their significance for the humankind are the core of our philosophy. As educators and practitioners we held the following beliefs regarding occupations, the human being and learning:
Occupation is a complex construct that possess personal, social, cultural and contextual determinants. Human performance of occupations is explained by all these interfaces. We firmly visualize occupations as the means for social participation at the person, family, environmental, community and social levels. Occupations, in order to be named as occupations, are meaningful, significant and culturally pertinent. Human development, when view in the context of occupations, is determined and enriched by the performance of occupations. Developmental milestones and outcomes are strengthened through occupational performance and adaptation in each developmental stage. Performance of occupations promotes and enhances learning, motivation, adaptation and allows the person to explore new avenues and developmental pathways through the lifetime. Human qualities such as resiliency, self-efficacy, self-esteem and optimism are enriched by their performance in occupations. Dignity, competency, independence and worth are values inherent to the meaning and doing of occupations. Pursuing significant and successful occupations elicit development of routines and habits in addition to promote healthy client factors performance.
From an occupational therapy point of view, concerns arise when the person cannot fully occupationally participate in society due to a variety of situations: diseases, sickness, lack of social opportunities, occupational deprivation and economic limitations. The occupational therapy professionals have the social responsibility and mission to study the consequences of this occupational “emptiness” and to propose alternatives to support occupational performance, performance skills, patterns and human factors. In this sense, we stand for the health enhancing qualities of occupations and with their view as health determinants. Occupations and activities are “therapy” by themselves, but are also applied as “media” to obtain health outcomes and adaptations in the human being. This therapeutic value can be applied to facilitate function, improve quality of life, remediate or restore capabilities and to learn compensatory strategies. We believe in the therapeutic use of occupations as well as its value to prevent, maintain and improve health wellness.
The human being
It is our believe that a human being is an active entity capable of performing occupations in a manner that promotes health and well-being as described in the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework: Domain and Process. Likewise, the person is capable of continued learning, growth and change even during the presence of adverse circumstances. Through active participation in all occupational areas, the person will maintain a degree of independence that will allow them to feel satisfied and competent.
Several forces explain the challenges for individuals and communities in the 21st. century: historical, social, cultural, physical, psychological, political, economic, ecological, and spiritual dimensions are important, to name a few. Despite these forces, people relentlessly pursuit meaningful occupations, activities, and roles that make them reach to their highest potential and hopes.
Furthermore, human beings should be seen as holistic. For us this means that the person is more than the sum of its parts (Aristotle): body, mind and spirit. Social, spiritual and transcendental values are vital to achieve adaptation when facing challenges such as sickness, trauma, poverty, violence and others that are threats to a healthy occupational development. Each person in the course of their development acquires values, capacities, abilities and skills that convey their dignity and worth. The human being learns, makes decisions, changes, influences, and is influenced, by their contexts, demonstrating resiliency through the performance of occupations. The person is capable of acquiring or re-learning repertoires of adapted behaviors and to approach life with a positive outlook.
In conclusion, each person performs their occupations in “unique” ways. These “ways of performing” are a reflection of their histories, challenges, social and economic opportunities as well as deprivations.
The Program’s view and understanding of learning and education are grounded in our philosophy regarding occupations and the human being. The ultimate goal of education of occupational therapy practitioners is the development of competent, caring, compassionate and well-rounded assistants. Learning and teaching are the media to attain that goal.
A spontaneous motivation for learning is observed once the students are admitted to our Program. The teaching learning environment provided by the faculty and fostered by the institutional context, builds upon this motivation. We believe that learning is a dynamic and complex process influenced by many intrinsic and extrinsic factors. From an individual standpoint, their learning process and style is influenced by their age, motivation, personality, emotional development, study habits, intellectual abilities, life experiences and other aspects that define a person as a whole. From a contextual perspective we recognize that the teaching styles, physical facilities, technological opportunities and virtual environments, educational strategies and methods contribute to learning effectiveness and meaningfulness. Learning is gradually achieved during the teaching process, and beyond, when the individual and context factors are considered. This speaks about the complexity of the human being and its learning process and outcomes.
Active participation by the students during laboratories and classes as well as the faculty dedication to support their learning process through care and trust, are also values included in our view of learning. Reflection about their own learning experiences and about “their continually being” occupational therapy assistants are also present as important elements in the curriculum. Laboratory experiences and early Fieldwork Level I experiences are examples of the ways we encourage “hands on” knowledge. We also believe in the values of service learning as the way to promote in the students commitment with community needs. All these features result in students who inquire and are increasingly reflective during their academic progress.
The revised Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Domains is the general framework used as guidance in the identification of learning objectives and course requirements. This framework provides support to the faculty when analyzing the complexity of course content to achieve higher learning levels and when making decisions about curricular changes. Constant challenges to the application of this learning philosophy are new knowledge supporting occupations, teaching evidence that validates practice, alternative ways to learn values and professional development and continuous competence for an ethical practice. The use of technology is fused through the curriculum as a learning tool that contributes in their life-long learning.
The Program approaches the development of professional behaviors as attitudes that can be learned and gradually become student’s natural responses. Learning initiatives proposed by them are respected and encouraged as well as their problem solving skills.
Multiple educational strategies and techniques are used by the faculty to achieve this learning philosophy and to address student needs. Some of the strategies used are lectures, active discussions, demonstrations, laboratories, portfolios and self-directed learning projects.
Occupational Therapy Program Mission:
The mission of the Associate Degree in Occupational Therapy Program is to offer an entry level educational program that will prepare occupational therapy assistants capable of efficiently delivering services and to make contributions to the health, wellbeing and quality of life of those needing occupational therapy. These practitioners will be able to provide their services to the Puerto Rican community and beyond, in a variety of health, education and human service systems, recognizing human diversity. The pursuit of excellence and the importance of serving persons of all ages and occupational needs through participation in significant occupations are important values of this undertaking.
Program Learning Outcomes
The Occupational Therapy Assistant Program aims to Educate Occupational Therapy Assistants who demonstrate the following learning outcomes, after finishing all courses and fieldwork experiences: