University of Wisconsin-La Crosse | uwlax.edu

Occupational Therapy (MS)
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  • Curriculum

    The professional program is conceptualized as a confluence of five curricular threads: 

    • foundational science
    • research skills
    • professional identity/leadership
    • clinical skills
    • theory 

    Some of these threads are emphasized at different points in the curriculum (i.e. foundational sciences occur in the first year and theory is more heavily emphasized in the last year).  The courses are sequences by curricular threads.  For the current curriculum please visit - Current OT Curriculum

    OT Curriculum Image

    Scope of the Curriculum

    Our mission, to graduate entry level occupational therapist leaders who are committed to providing excellent occupation-centered, client-centered, evidence-based occupational therapy, drives decisions about the scope of our curriculum.  Based on the types of first positions obtained by our students, we have concluded that the best preparation for our graduates is that of a generalist who can independently practice at entry level with various populations in current practice settings.  With continued professional development, UW-L graduates are prepared to work in emerging practice settings.

    The mission drives every decision about the breadth and depth of the curriculum.  Before content is added to the curriculum, it is evaluated by asking the following questions:

    • Is it needed for entry level generalist practice?
    • To what degree does an entry level generalist need this information?
    • How does it advance our mission of occupation-centered, client-centered, evidence-based occupational therapy?
    • How does it help advance our mission of developing leaders in occupational therapy?

    Only when these questions can be answered to the collective faculty members’ satisfaction will the new content be added.  If content needs to be deleted, the same process applies. 

    Here is an example of some of the decisions that we have made about content and scope based on our mission and definition of populations and practice settings.

     We have included…

    • a stronger emphasis on mental illness and psychosocial factors since generalist practice requires the ability to competently address occupational performance problems with people with a variety of problems.
    • two courses in physical dysfunction (orthopedics and neurology), two courses in pediatrics, and two courses in mental health (mental illness and psychosocial factors) to allow time for the students to develop the depth of expertise needed to assess and plan interventions in these areas.
    • Level I fieldwork in each of these three areas to allow the students to apply concepts and practice skills.  These fieldwork experiences occur in the same semester as the coursework to facilitate application of concepts to the clinical setting.

    We have not included…

    • knowledge and skills that are considered post-entry level (such as demonstrated competence in administering deep physical agent modalities).
    • a thesis requirement since it requires a depth of research expertise is not needed by an entry level, generalist evidence-based occupational therapist.

    Curriculum Sequence

    The overall sequence of courses was designed to steep the students with basic science courses early so these science concepts becomes the “prior knowledge” that students use as the foundation to for building their occupational therapy knowledge base.  Other curricular thread coursework are spread throughout the curriculum.  Theory is covered in many courses as a part of assessment and intervention planning for different populations.  The courses noted in the curricular thread as theory in semester 5 and 6 require higher level thinking about theory.

    In general, it is the responsibility of each individual instructor to sequence the concepts in the course, select and use active learning methods.  Increasingly complex course objectives are written in the two course-sequence courses to help students progress in acquiring higher level thinking and skills (see syllabi analysis grids on site). 

    The critical analysis of practice courses (CAP) in the 3rd and 5th semester are viewed as opportunities to cognitively integrate content from all courses taught in that semester using case studies.  These two courses are developmental with more complex thinking expected in the second course. 

    Fieldwork is viewed as the opportunity to integrate information from prior classes with the current semester coursework and to apply these concepts in an authentic setting. Level I Fieldwork is primarily aimed to give exposure to the population and contests and help the students develop proficient professional behaviors.  The level 1 fieldwork experiences are full time for 1 week to give the student an immersion experience in an occupational therapy setting.  Since the population and contexts are different with each of the level I experiences, we do not expect students to develop more proficient skills by the end of the program.  However, we do expect the students’ professional behaviors to increase from one Level 1 Fieldwork experience to the next.