The Educational Conceptual Framework, Study Groups, & Professional Conceptual Framework

The curriculum incorporates a variety of evaluation methods which correspond to the teaching methods and objectives of each course, with maximal emphasis on integration of learning, and a minimal emphasis on rote learning. These methods include the following:

The Educational Conceptual Framework

The Department of Occupational Therapy and Occupational Science has written the MScOT Educational Conceptual Framework (ECF) to illustrate how the program’s philosophy and values provide a foundation for the learning and education within the program. This framework guides the department on decisions around educating future occupational therapists, and selecting teaching methods for our curriculum.

The foundational theory guiding the Educational Conceptual Framework is transformative learning theory (Mesirow, 1991). This theory focuses on the ‘deep learning’ that students undergo when significant shifts in their perspectives take place. Transformative learning is encouraged through a variety of approaches including experiential labs, fieldwork, critical reflection exercises, role-playing and group-based projects. Other theories that contribute to the Framework include: Kolb’s theory of experiential learning, social constructivism, critical pedagogy, cognitive neuroscience theory, Indigenous pedagogies, foundations of online pedagogy and Bloom’s taxonomy of learning. Kolb’s theory of experiential learning (1984) proposes a cycle of experiential learning where the learning occurs by a cyclical process of encountering the phenomena, observing the consequences of the encounter, analyzing patterns and formulating general principles, and then testing these in context through active experimentation. Social constructivism leads to greater focus on self-directed learning and assumes that learners construct knowledge based on internal cognitive processes, social interactions, and other experiences (Merriam and Caffarella, 1999). Critical pedagogy is an educational philosophy that endorses and nurtures students’ critical thinking through cycles of theory, application, evaluation, and reflection (Giroux, 2010; Shor, 1996). Critical pedagogy aims to have students critically examine implicit assumptions, power imbalances, inequities, and the social systems that maintain these structures. The theory of cognitive neuroscience discusses that learning processes occur within the neural networks of the brain leading to permanent changes in the neural architecture of the brain. Foundations of online pedagogy are incorporated to build relationships and community, embrace mastery of learning, incorporate active learning and personalise the learning experience. In keeping with our values of diversity, inclusion, justice, equity, and accountability and with a desire to participate in a meaningful way in the process of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, we aim to embrace Indigenous Ways of Knowing in our pedagogical approach. Examples of some of the specific concepts seen in the curriculum are the belief/focus on holism and seeing individuals in context; the value of narrative to understandings of individual lives and of community life; appreciation for life in urban, rural, remote and reserve locations; and learning through observation, including close listening and observation of the natural world. Integrated with all of these approaches, is Bloom’s taxonomy, updated by Atherton (2011), which is used as a comprehensive categorization of knowledge types and specific learning processes.

The MScOT curriculum and evaluations are structured to reflect the principles of these theories. The ECF is dynamic and will evolve in response to feedback from students and changes in professional practice.

**With thanks to MScOT Class of 2024 students: Mikaela Correa and Maria Zainab for their contribution to the development of this summary.

Interactive Lectures
There are many ways of incorporating successful interaction in large and smaller group sessions. Interactive lecturing emphasizes the active involvement and participation by the audience so students are engaged in the learning process. The course instructor may break the class into pairs or small groups for part of the session, using questions, collecting audience responses (e.g. use of flash cards), strategically incomplete handouts, debates, panels, simulations and audio-visual materials. This approach implies that teachers need to approach the preparation of lectures to include time for discussion or other strategies in the class session. Seminars are also included in this category.

Divergent Case Method (DCM)
Divergent Case Method involves individual learning, small group learning, full class discussions and written assignments (please refer to the chart at the end of this section for further details). DCM facilitates many opportunities (e.g. group discussion, independent research, clinical reasoning, application of theory to practice ) and has been designed to meet the needs of our program, while incorporating what was most beneficial from the previous Problem Based Learning (PBL) curriculum. There are several stages in the Divergent Case Method, starting with:

Stage Process Outcome Who
Preparatory Stage Course and case development Cases are included in course manuals Course Instr. & others (e.g., case OT). Cases based on actual situations
Case Teaching 5 steps of the DCM Student learning Course Instr. & students
Case Evaluation Evaluate student performance in the case class & evaluate case effectiveness Student grade and case review Course Instr. & others (e.g., case OT, TA)


The student experiences the DCM steps:

Steps Process Outcome Who
1 Independent analysis Student independently formulates understanding of case and a preliminary decision (makes a work plan, as necessary) Individual student
2 Individual write-up of analysis Paper filed & (if required) handed in to instructor; (Instr. may mark all or a random selection) Individual student
3 Small group analysis Students share information and discuss potential decisions (make a work plan and meet again, as necessary), prepare for full class discussion Study group
4 Case class discussion Full class participates in a targeted discussion of the case and the decision. Students expand understanding of case and its solution Full class led by expert faculty/instructor
5 Individual write-up of case and final decisions, incl. how these have changed (or not) since Step 1 & 2. Students hand in papers, instructor marks (random) selection Table


Five problem solving questions are used each time the student is considering the case:

  1. What do I know from what is given in the case and from my knowledge about issues raised in this case?
  2. What do I need to find out and how will I do that?
  3. What are three possible solutions to this case?
  4. Which one will I choose and why, based on evidence?
  5. How will I know if it worked (what evidence will I use?)
Skill Labs
Many of the skills that students need to develop need to be done in an environment where hands-on learning can occur. Skill labs will occur throughout the curriculum in conjunction with the other components of a course. Principles from Kolb’s experiential learning cycle are used as an organizing framework – concrete experience, observations and reflections, formation of abstract concepts and generalizations, and testing implications of concepts in new situations.

Fieldwork – block and field-based learning

Please refer to the Fieldwork section.

Self-Study and Computer-Assisted Instruction (CAI)

It is recognized that there are many ways that the curriculum can expect and support self-study/independent learning, and a significant amount of time will be spent in this way. Computer-assisted instruction has been used in the OT program in the past, and the Department will continue to find more ways to incorporate CAI into courses, especially as new technologies develop.

Small Group Learning
a) Study Groups:

An essential feature of the DCM process described above, study groups are an integral part of the curriculum. They provide a vehicle for students to carry out the independent and collaborative learning required for various teaching/learning methods including DCM, interactive lectures and group assignments. Study groups will assist students in integrating their learning across courses and support opportunities for in-depth study. Consistent use of study groups will assist students in optimizing the use of their time and decrease scheduling difficulties.

There will be 10 study groups, consisting of 8 – 9 members, and the number shall remain as consistent as possible throughout the program. The study groups will initially be constructed at the beginning of the program, and will be randomly redistributed at two further points to allow students to benefit from a wide variety of perspectives and backgrounds, and to develop skills in small group process. The redistribution of study group membership will occur: End of Term 1 and End of Term 3.

Dealing With Students Who Are Not Meeting Expectations in Study Groups

Several times in the past few years, student and faculty members have asked for guidelines regarding how to deal with students who are not “carrying their weight” in study groups. The kinds of situations which have come up include, for example, not attending study group meetings, not completing required components of group projects, or not contributing to group discussions.

As a result of these requests, the Professional Curriculum Committee and the Student Affairs Committee have developed the following guidelines, shown as a flowchart diagram, regarding intervention when one or more students in a group are perceived to not be meeting group expectations.

We have developed the guidelines as a flow chart to indicate the possible and desired steps that a group can go through when a problem has been identified. Although the process looks quite detailed in this diagram, it can take place within one or several sessions.

It is important to note that this guideline is to assist students and faculty dealing with difficult situations and is intended to be used before serious problems are identified. Normally, students who do not meet expected behaviors should not be considered to have breached the Student Code of Conduct until attempts to address and rectify the issue have occurred.

The guideline also assumes that at the beginning of the program, as study groups are first formed, there would be a meeting to talk about group process so that all students are familiar with the expectations of the program, and to enable discussion within the group about group norms.

Study Group Guidelines – Flowchart

b) Mentor Groups:

The course, Building Reflective Practice through Mentorship: OCT 1190Y, consists of 10 small groups of students (8-9) and an OT mentor, who meet every 2 weeks for 1 ½ hours throughout the two years of the MScOT program. Students are assigned to their mentor group at the beginning of the program and remain with the same group throughout. The course is designed to foster the students’ development as a health professional, and to enable them to support each other’s growth and development in the Occupational Therapy program. This group process allows students to experience, examine, and discuss the skills, attitudes and behaviours necessary for a developing professional.

The role of the mentor is to facilitate and guide the students through a supportive, reflective experience. Mentors have been nominated by students, faculty and members of our clinical community for their ability to perform this role. Mentors encourage an atmosphere of safety and freedom to explore professional issues that arise in becoming an Occupational Therapist.

Learning Objectives

  1. To identify the qualities of an occupational therapy professional.
  2. To progressively demonstrate the qualities of an occupational therapy professional.
  3. To demonstrate effective reflective practice strategies.
  4. To develop a professional portfolio.
  5. To demonstrate increasing proficiency in group process skills.
  6. To develop effective communication skills.
  7. To learn how to effectively give and receive feedback on professional skill development.

Student growth and professional development are explored as part of the process of the mentor group experience. To encourage the development of interpersonal and professional skills, mentors and students will provide feedback to one another throughout the program. This will include a written feedback form at the end of the program. Students will be given verbal feedback by mentors and fellow students in the following areas: communication, contribution to group (group maintenance skills, group task skills) and self-development. Formal verbal feedback sessions will occur 1-2 times per term. Informal group and individual feedback will occur more regularly, as each group determines the need.

Professional Conceptual Framework

MScOT Program Goals & Objectives

(Abridged from version in the 2017 MScOT Program and Curriculum Document)
Guiding Principle: The MScOT program has a set of overarching goals and objectives that graduates are expected to achieve, that are responsive to the changing needs of society and that encourage the development of the breadth of competencies for occupational therapy practice in Canada.

The overall goal of the Program is “to create knowledge and prepare leaders in occupational science and occupational therapy to improve health and well-being locally and globally”. Short-term objectives are aligned with achieving competency in the seven roles identified in the Profile of Occupational Therapy in Canada (2012). The long-term objectives are that graduates are in roles that are contributing to the achievement of our mission.

MScOT Program Goal
To create knowledge and prepare leaders in occupational science and occupational therapy to improve health and well-being locally and globally.

MScOT Program Short-Term Objectives
At the end of the MScOT Program, graduates will demonstrate:

  1. Ethical practice and high personal standards of behaviour (Professional Role)
  2. The ability to manage time, prioritize, and support the management of effective and efficient practice (Practice Manager Role)
  3. Expertise to advance occupation, occupational performance, and occupational engagement (Change Agent Role)
  4. Use of evidence-based processes that focus on a client’s occupations as a medium for action and outcome (Expert in Enabling Occupation Role)
  5. Expertise in oral, written, non-verbal and electronic communication (Communicator Role)
  6. The ability to work effectively with key stakeholders to enable participation in occupations by using and promoting shared decision-making approaches (Collaborator Role)
  7. Use of critique, reflection, and quality improvement in everyday practice and through lifelong learning (Scholarly Practitioner Role)

MScOT Program Long-Term Objectives
Within five years of graduation, graduates of the MScOT program will demonstrate: leadership in the supervision of support workers, through assumption of management roles, through involvement in the profession, and/or through entrepreneurship.

Professional Conceptual Framework

Guiding Principle: The MScOT program’s professional conceptual framework embodies notions of ‘health through occupation’ and ‘scholarly-practitioner’ and is responsive to new and emerging theories in occupational science.

We are committed to advancing knowledge through excellence in research. As scholarly-practitioners, occupational therapists are expected to maintain a practice based on evidence, one aspect of which is current research. “Evidence-based occupational therapy is client-centred enablement of occupation that is based on client information, critical review of relevant research, expert consensus, and past experience” (CAOT, 1999/2009; Law & MacDermid, 2008). “Occupational therapists believe that evidence-based practice is a major element of what is now described as best practice”. (CAOT 1999/2009, para 2). Thus, we aim to graduate students with skills in contributing to programs of research and in the translation and utilization of research, leading to the advancement of knowledge supporting the profession.

Our professional conceptual framework provides the foundational philosophy and values statements of the Program that inform our curriculum.  Our professional conceptual framework embodies values that are deeply rooted in both current and emerging occupational theory and practice, as reflected in the following value statements:

  1. Occupation: We believe in the value of occupation and its importance to health and well-being. We also believe in the importance of the environment as an influence on occupation and quality of life.
  2. Leadership: We value a variety of notions of leadership. We believe that leadership is a process where one individual influences a group of people to achieve a common goal. We also believe that a leader is anyone willing to help and that “one can lead from any chair”.
  3. Interprofessional Collaboration: We are committed to collaborative relationships and partnerships with clients/caregivers and health/social care providers.
  4. Culture, Equity and Justice: We value cultural diversity and individual differences. We situate discussions of culture, equity and justice in the context of social inclusion and occupational justice concomitantly with oppression, privilege, discrimination, exclusion and injustice, all of which impact health, well-being and occupation.
  5. Client-centredness: We believe that people’s occupational repertoires are idiosyncratic and, as such, clients are the experts regarding their own life experiences and occupations. Therefore, clients must be active partners in the occupational therapy process to realize the full potential of occupational engagement.
  6. Professionalism: We value professionalism and are committed to fostering its development throughout the MScOT Program.

Curriculum Structure

Guiding Principle: The major elements of the MScOT program are organized in a logical sequence and in a coordinated and integrated manner that supports the progressive development of students’ competencies.

We understand that students enter the MScOT program with knowledge that stems from their cultural, religious, educational and social experiences and their individual personal attributes. The curriculum is designed to move students to a broader understanding of how the world works, to understanding the value of occupation in that world, and to seeing themselves as occupational therapists. The flow of the curriculum structure is achieved through identified continua across the two years, guiding constructs and cross-cutting themes.

The flow of the curriculum structure is achieved through identified continua across the two years, guiding constructs and cross-cutting themes (see Figure 1, MScOT Program Structure and Flow Abridged Version).

Two fundamental principles of the curriculum structure are maximization of integration of content. and maximization of consistency.