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Research Article
Issue Date: September 01, 2014
Published Online: October 23, 2014
Updated: January 01, 2019
Examining Occupational Therapy Education Through Faculty Engagement in Curriculum Mapping and Pedagogical Reflection
Author Affiliations
  • Cheryl MacNeil, PhD, is Associate Professor, Occupational Therapy Department, The Sage Colleges, 65 1st Street, Troy, NY 12180; macnec@sage.edu
  • Theresa Hand, OTD, OTR/L, CHT, is Associate Professor, Chair, and Program Director, Occupational Therapy Department, The Sage Colleges, Troy, NY
Article Information
Education of OTs and OTAs / Special Issue
Research Article   |   September 01, 2014
Examining Occupational Therapy Education Through Faculty Engagement in Curriculum Mapping and Pedagogical Reflection
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, September/October 2014, Vol. 68, S12-S22. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2014.012286
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, September/October 2014, Vol. 68, S12-S22. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2014.012286
Abstract

This article discusses a 1-yr evaluation study of a master of science in occupational therapy program to examine curriculum content and pedagogical practices as a way to gauge program preparedness to move to a clinical doctorate. Faculty members participated in a multitiered qualitative study that included curriculum mapping, semistructured individual interviewing, and iterative group analysis. Findings indicate that curriculum mapping and authentic dialogue helped the program formulate a more streamlined and integrated curriculum with increased faculty collaboration. Curriculum mapping and collaborative pedagogical reflection are valuable evaluation strategies for examining preparedness to offer a clinical doctorate, enhancing a self-study process, and providing information for ongoing formative curriculum review.

Occupational therapy professionals continue to discuss the implementation of the clinical doctorate. The research examining the value and feasibility of the degree illuminates a variety of philosophical and pragmatic issues under consideration (Griffiths & Padilla, 2006; Smith, 2007). As the debate persists, some academic institutions have moved forward in developing the degree (Mu & Coppard, 2007). Others continue to seek guidance and examine internal and external dynamics.
At the Sage Colleges occupational therapy program, faculty are taking steps to examine the viability of offering the clinical doctorate. This article outlines a 1-yr formative evaluation study that identified the strengths and challenges inherent in the master of science program that will influence the development of a doctoral program. Using a process of curriculum mapping (Jacobs & Johnson, 2009), in tandem with dialogic evaluation strategies (Greene, 2001; Guba & Lincoln, 1989; House & Howe, 1999; MacNeil, 2002), we critiqued our curriculum content and pedagogical practices.
Curriculum mapping is a technique for recording time-on-task data in the classroom and analyzing alignment of the data with the officially adopted curriculum and assessment strategies (Jacobs, 1997). Dialogic evaluation is designed to engage stakeholders in discussing specific issues of a practice or context, such as the curriculum being implemented in a classroom. In this model, attention is paid to ensuring that the dialogue is inclusive and guided by norms of equality, reciprocity, and openness to understanding (Greene, 2001).
Curriculum Mapping
The concept of curriculum mapping originated in the field of education in the 1980s when Fredrick English (1980)  observed that many school districts were unaware that the curriculum guide did not reflect what was actually happening in the classroom. English proposed a curriculum mapping process that produced a reality-based record capturing the content actually taught, the amount of time it was being taught, and the match between what was being taught and what was being assessed. The field of education embraced curriculum mapping as a vehicle toward creating an authentic portrayal of an educational program.
Since then, curriculum mapping has evolved into a sophisticated process that has been used to evaluate university systems (Spencer, Riddle, & Knewstubb, 2012), components of educational programs (Britton, Letassy, Medina, & Er, 2008; Landry et al., 2011; Plaza, Draugalis, Slack, Skrepnek, & Sauer, 2007), and academic skills and activities (Bair & Mader, 2013; Harden, 2001; Sumison & Goodfellow, 2004). Today, depending on the goal of the curriculum review activity, curriculum maps are designed to capture any number of variables. Maps can differ depending on the desired functionality of the map (Willett, 2008).
Although the literature is replete with studies of curriculum mapping in the field of education, little research has been conducted using curriculum mapping in health sciences graduate education. Willett (2008)  surveyed medical schools in Canada and the United Kingdom to determine how curriculum mapping was being used and the challenges and benefits of implementation. The study found that the mapping process was useful in making the curriculum transparent and in conducting a holistic curriculum evaluation. However, the time, funding, and human resources required to collect data were identified as significant challenges. Even with these challenges, Willett  concluded that the benefits of curriculum mapping sufficiently justified the investments.
In the United States, curriculum mapping is an expectation in the evaluation and assessment of outcomes in pharmaceutical education (Britton et al., 2008; Plaza et al., 2007). The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center invested in the development of an electronic system to support a sustainable curriculum mapping and peer review process across its campuses. The system has proved beneficial in helping the center organize and conduct curriculum reviews and make the outcomes of these reviews accessible to faculty (Britton et al., 2008).
In nursing education, curriculum mapping has been used to assess consistency in curricula between two community colleges and a state university (Landry et al., 2011). The mapping process helped reveal gaps and redundancies in the curriculum and enabled faculty to revise the curriculum by eliminating nonessential content. The process also strengthened the practitioner–educator relationship and provided an opportunity for collaboration among the colleges’ and university’s nursing faculty.
Our interest in curriculum mapping was enhanced by research findings that demonstrated how mapping can foster collaboration and collegiality among those participating in the process (Uchiyama & Radin, 2009). We were invested in creating a process in which the faculty of our program could share their knowledge about teaching through engagement in authentic dialogue. Our desire was to both support the development of a more collaborative environment and explore the intersection between content and pedagogy.
Dialogic Evaluation
Briggs (2007)  contended that student learning is primarily the responsibility of an academic department; thus, departments must be viewed as the centers for curriculum renewal. In this paradigm, departments are recognized as socially constructed organizations enmeshed in larger institutional, educational, professional, and social cultures. When faculty members come together to discuss matters of curriculum evaluation and renewal, they bring with them a set of values, ideologies, and assumptions based on their contextualized experiences (Pittendrigh, 2007).
Creating collaborative dialogue requires a strong commitment to authenticity (Simpson, 2009). Authentic dialogue is encouraged when equal weight is granted to the multiplicity of perspectives that faculty members bring to the conversation (House & Howe, 1999; MacNeil, 2002). Qualters (2009)  demonstrated this in a study that used dialogue as a faculty development intervention. A skilled facilitator provided guidelines for discussion including listening carefully to others, suspending assumptions, being open to new ideas, and monitoring one’s own thoughts. The study found that participants were able to recognize their colleagues’ assumptions and think in depth about the assumptions that framed their own practices. The dialogue assisted the group in coming to common understandings and created individual change in teaching practices.
With a desire to build on dialogic authenticity and collaboration, we adopted two models of evaluation to serve as the guiding theoretical frameworks for our study: (1) the social constructivist evaluation methodology of Guba and Lincoln (1989, 2001) and (2) the model of deliberative democratic evaluation of House and Howe (1999) . Both models recognize that evaluation stakeholders have preexisting constructions about what is being evaluated and that these constructions need to be made transparent to the group. Both models value inclusive dialogue that allows for the free expression of differing opinions, and both aim to develop consensus and shared understandings among the evaluation participants.
The purpose of our study was twofold. First, we wanted to examine how our program alignment, pedagogy, and assessments shaped our curriculum and influenced our preparedness to move to a clinical doctorate. Second, we sought to create a foundation for collaboration and collegiality within our team to build on for future program evaluation and development activities. The evaluation question we set out to address was, What does the curriculum tell us about our current program and our preparedness for moving to a clinical doctorate?
Method
Research Design
The authors of this article served as coinvestigators for the study. Our multitiered qualitative study spanned the course of 1 academic year and included curriculum mapping, semistructured individual interviewing, and iterative group analysis. Figure 1 provides an overview of the study processes. The faculty members provided consent, and the Sage Colleges Institutional Review Board approved all study procedures.
Figure 1.
Overview of the study processes.
Figure 1.
Overview of the study processes.
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Context
The Sage Colleges is a small urban college that enrolls more than 3,000 students. The occupational therapy department is situated in the School of Health Sciences and provides a 2-yr, 3-mo, 80.5-credit master of science program. Each cohort has 30–36 students taught by 8 full-time faculty. The faculty is invested in creating self-regulated learners who experience a student-centered curriculum that promotes active engagement in the classroom (Cassidy, 2011). Self-regulated learning is a process in which students learn to select appropriate task-related academic strategies based on their learning style, available resources, and previous outcomes.
Participants
We asked faculty members if they would invest in a process to examine three interconnected constructs that shaped our curriculum: (1) pedagogy, or the instructional strategies used to deliver the curriculum and achieve learning outcomes; (2) assessments, or the formal (i.e., grade producing, such as quizzes, exams, papers, and presentations) and informal (e.g., active learning, facilitated discussions) means by which faculty consciously evaluated student learning; and (3) program alignment, or the internal linkages between courses (i.e., prerequisites, corequisites, and learning benchmarks). In addition, we sought to examine the external relationships across courses to larger program outcomes and professional standards (Liu, Wrobbel, & Blankson, 2010).
We asked faculty to commit to
  • Complete curriculum maps for each of their courses in real time for two semesters;

  • Participate in individual interviews exploring their perspectives on the program’s history, delivery, and future projections; and

  • Analyze the curriculum maps and data produced during the interviews during midterm and end-of-year faculty retreats.

Data Collection
During the fall semester, the first author (MacNeil) conducted individual interviews. The interview protocol (see 1) was designed to offer faculty members an opportunity to share their perceptions of how the program culture had been shaped over time, areas they perceived as strong or in need of bolstering, the degree of student centeredness and choices, and thoughts about future directions.
We sent the interview protocol to each faculty member a few days before the scheduled interview. We asked faculty members not to discuss the interview with each other until the interview process was completed. Interviews took place in faculty offices and lasted between 45 min and 1 hr. The interviews were audiotaped and later transcribed. MacNeil, as 1 of the 8 faculty members involved in the process, recorded her own responses to the interview questions in writing before starting the interviewing process.
Coinciding with the interviews, faculty documented the content, skills, and assessments they were teaching in their courses using a process of backward mapping (Udelhofen, 2005, p. 18). Content was defined as the subject matter for the session, lecture, or lab, and faculty detailed succinct, clear references to key concepts. Skills were desired proficiencies, and descriptions began with an action verb. Assessments were defined as the specific product or performance providing evidence of student learning, including classroom discussions when the teacher actively assessed the student learning, test, quizzes, and papers (Jacobs & Johnson, 2009). Figure 2 is a completed course map that was handed to faculty as a guiding example.
Figure 2.
Completed course map provided to faculty as an example.
Note. APA = Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (American Psychological Association, 2010); IRB = institutional review board.
aThese assessments are formally graded. bProtocols developed by the Occupational Therapy Evidence Based Practice Research Group at McMaster University that provide frameworks for critically reviewing quantitative and qualitative research articles (Law et al., 2008). cCertificate provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) verifying that a researcher has completed training in protecting human research participants (NIH Office of Extramural Research, 2013).
Figure 2.
Completed course map provided to faculty as an example.
Note. APA = Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (American Psychological Association, 2010); IRB = institutional review board.
aThese assessments are formally graded. bProtocols developed by the Occupational Therapy Evidence Based Practice Research Group at McMaster University that provide frameworks for critically reviewing quantitative and qualitative research articles (Law et al., 2008). cCertificate provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) verifying that a researcher has completed training in protecting human research participants (NIH Office of Extramural Research, 2013).
×
The purpose of the curriculum mapping was to develop an authentic portrait of the program’s curriculum. Faculty members were instructed to record their curriculum data independent of one another and in real time, as opposed to reviewing existing syllabi (Udelhofen, 2005). Once completed, faculty submitted the maps electronically to the second author (Hand) on a monthly basis. The mapping process was an ongoing agenda item at semimonthly faculty meetings to keep a focus on the process and address any questions. The mapping process was replicated in the spring semester.
Interview Analysis
We analyzed the interview transcripts using the fourth-generation evaluation methodology of Guba and Lincoln (1989)  to identify claims, concerns, and issues among the faculty. A claim was an assertion about the program that was favorable. A concern was an assertion about the program that was unfavorable. An issue was “any state of affairs about which reasonable persons may disagree” (p. 40). Claims and concerns represented shared perceptions held by several faculty members, not just an individual.
We completed the first part of the analysis individually and then compared our findings and discussed discrepancies to establish intercoder agreement (Saldana, 2009). We then selected exemplar quotations that represented shared perceptions across the interviews. Claims and concerns were subsumed under an overarching topical construct. When the analysis was completed, we co-constructed the final representations to be discussed with the faculty at the midterm retreat.
Curriculum Mapping Analysis
During the retreats, the faculty reviewed and discussed the curriculum maps created by each member. The following ground rules for the retreats provided a framework for discussion:
  • Conversations would focus on our current master’s curriculum and matters that we could change as a team to make our program stronger. We would put all issues that required administrative actions aside for the day.

  • Our role was to view the data and listen to the conversations through the lens of program director, not a defender or advocate of any particular course.

  • Past performances and personal beliefs were to be sidelined to maximize the potential success of the session.

  • We would negotiate outcomes and action steps toward the end of the day. It was important that we have not just a process but also a plan of commitment to tangible actions over time.

Two adjunct faculty members who had been teaching a full-time load joined the 8 full-time faculty members for the retreat discussions. Faculty were divided into 2 groups of 5 each, with each author serving as a facilitator. The 5 faculty members who primarily taught courses in the 1st year reviewed the curriculum maps for the 2nd-year courses, and the other 5 faculty members who taught 2nd-year courses reviewed the 1st-year curriculum maps.
We used a modified process outlined by Jacobs and Johnson (2009)  to review the maps for each course and identify possible gaps, possible repetitions, issues with assessments, and questions. We placed large papers on the wall, each titled with the categories to be explored, to record the discussion. Participants were asked to first review maps for one specific course and form individual impressions. The facilitators then asked them to share their perceptions. Conversation ensued among the group as observations were offered. The facilitators’ role was to recognize all points of view, ask clarifying questions, keep track of time, and record input under the correct category. This process was repeated for each course.
Once the small group analysis was completed, the two teams came together and shared their recorded findings with the whole group. We then facilitated a larger discussion examining the bigger picture of gaps, repetitions, assessment issues, questions, and impressions. Further observations, strategies for change, and commitments to action were recorded.
Trustworthiness
To maintain credibility and trustworthiness during the process, we used member checking and peer debriefing techniques (Krefting, 1991). We sent the interview transcripts to each faculty member to review the data and add, delete, or clarify their responses for accurate representation of perceptions. We then removed all identifying information and sent the transcripts and the summary of our findings to a colleague at the University of Georgia for peer debriefing. We met via videoconferencing to get feedback, and our colleague confirmed our analysis and directions. The discussions during the retreats provided for ongoing member checking of perceptions.
Results
All 8 full-time faculty members (including the authors) and the 2 adjunct faculty members participated in the study. All full-time faculty were women who had been with the program from less than a month to 20 yr. Two were at the rank of professor, 2 were associate professors, and 4 were assistant professors. Half were tenured. The most recently hired faculty member produced maps for her courses but did not participate in the interview process.
The interview findings were presented at the first retreat and created opportunities for iterative discussions and the development of shared understandings. The curriculum maps were examined at both retreats and assisted the faculty in formulating action plans around individual courses and in developing connections and collaborations among courses. The following sections describe the major findings from the interviews and curriculum mapping analysis across the two retreats.
Shared Perceptions Gleaned From Interviews
The claims and concerns that emerged from the individual interviews were subsumed under five topical categories: (1) Curriculum, (2) Experiential Learning, (3) Faculty Collaboration, (4) Student Life, and (5) Connection to the College Community. The category of Curriculum captured perceptions related to the content and delivery of the curriculum as a whole. Faculty asserted that “the curriculum was designed to produce strong occupation-focused practitioners” and suggested that we “need to take steps in honoring the diversity of teaching methods and assessment strategies.” Yet, faculty were concerned with the volume of curriculum: “We are getting better at looking at course delivery but are still struggling with too much curriculum.” All agreed we had “too many formal assessments, papers, and tests, creating a grade-focused environment.”
The Experiential Learning category clustered perceptions about activities occurring outside of the classroom, such as fieldwork experiences and special external events. These opportunities were viewed positively, with “integrated fieldwork being a strength,” and as positioning students as “valuable resources to the community.” However, faculty viewed some of the value-added external events as “taking up a lot of time given the other demands of the program.”
Faculty Collaboration was perceived as stronger with faculty in other parts of the college than within the department. The following comments were characterized as concerns:
  • It is challenging to find time for collaborations in the context of over-the-top curriculum.

  • We tend to work in silos, and this creates turf issues.

  • We’re not always aware of what everyone else is teaching. When a problem occurs, we don’t always collect all the data. We need to be better information gatherers before judging.

  • We need to strengthen our ability to talk with one another.

  • We are all strong within ourselves and there are times when we support each other, but it is not the culture.

The interviews also explored various facets of Student Life and Connection to the College Community. The faculty expressed a number of positive thoughts in both of these areas. Our students were integrating into state and national professional associations and honor societies, and as faculty, we were participating and demonstrating leadership in the larger college community. Beyond the usual challenges that student life and college community cultures presented, we perceived ourselves as well situated in these areas.
Dialogue Addressing Issues
Three areas were targeted as issues warranting further discussion given the diversity of comments: Faculty perceptions varied when speaking about (1) our ability to be student centered, (2) equity across course workloads, and (3) assessment practices. As an example, when faculty talked about the ways we were or were not student centered, the responses varied:
  • “We make changes, move deadlines, accommodate, look at scheduling, sometimes bend over backwards. . . . We are very much toward the student, and that is what we should be doing.”

  • “We do not hold students to professional development issues and time management issues. It is important to be flexible, but we move the line a lot, and that doesn’t do anybody any favors.”

  • “Sometimes we are not comfortable hearing a student’s voice and helping them to shape that voice to a point where it can be used professionally. . . . Sometimes it is not an equal relationship.”

Similar variations in responses occurred across faculty when speaking about whether all courses with the same credit load should be designed equitably and the merits of different testing and assessment practices. We also thought it important to further explore faculty collaboration because this was pivotal to our ability to move forward.
To expand on these issues, we created a pair-and-share exercise during the retreat. In this exercise, faculty in the 1st-yr group randomly selected a question out of a paper bag; faculty from the 2nd-yr group, out of another bag with the same questions. Faculty from the two groups who pulled the same question paired up to discuss their thinking. The four questions they explored were
  1. Do all 3-credit courses have to be created equal? How so, how not?

  2. What does a student-centered learning environment look like, sound like, and feel like?

  3. What is it we are looking for in assessment? What makes for good assessment?

  4. What does faculty collaboration look like, sound like, and feel like?

Each pair was given 15 min to discuss their question. The pairs then reported their thinking back to the larger group. The purpose of this exercise was not to solve these issues or come up with the answers, or even to come to a consensus, but to get the issues on the table and to recognize the complexity of each issue for our team, creating a shared foundation of understanding that we could reference in future planning.
Dialogue Addressing Curriculum Maps
The curriculum mapping identified gaps, repetitions, assessment issues, and other questions within courses and across the curriculum. Table 1 provides a thematic summary of the group mapping analysis across both retreats for all of the courses.
Table 1.
Summary of the Curriculum Mapping Analysis Across Retreats
Summary of the Curriculum Mapping Analysis Across Retreats×
ThemeSummary of Analysis
GapsBolstering of certain content areas
Creation of stronger links between certain courses
More attention to certain populations
Integration of emerging practice areas
Struggle with moving to student-centered and occupation-focused learning
RepetitionsRedundancies that promote higher level learning
Redundancies that detract from the learning process
AssessmentsNeed to further examine how assessments can be best used as a learner-focused tool rather than an outcome measure
Need to further explore how best to use peer feedback and self-assessed learning
Ways we are enhancing or detracting from cultivating self-regulated learners in our assessment processes
QuestionsSequence of course activities and courses
Role and usefulness of value-added topics and assessments
Table 1.
Summary of the Curriculum Mapping Analysis Across Retreats
Summary of the Curriculum Mapping Analysis Across Retreats×
ThemeSummary of Analysis
GapsBolstering of certain content areas
Creation of stronger links between certain courses
More attention to certain populations
Integration of emerging practice areas
Struggle with moving to student-centered and occupation-focused learning
RepetitionsRedundancies that promote higher level learning
Redundancies that detract from the learning process
AssessmentsNeed to further examine how assessments can be best used as a learner-focused tool rather than an outcome measure
Need to further explore how best to use peer feedback and self-assessed learning
Ways we are enhancing or detracting from cultivating self-regulated learners in our assessment processes
QuestionsSequence of course activities and courses
Role and usefulness of value-added topics and assessments
×
Gaps were areas in which the curriculum could be enhanced by bolstering content areas and building linkages between courses. We talked about enriching our focus on acute care and chronic illness and creating more explicit links between our psychosocial and physical rehabilitation courses. The mapping helped us pay more attention to connecting rote material, such as strength and range of motion testing, to real-life cases and fieldwork experiences, further enhancing our vision of student-centered and occupation-based learning.
Repetitions within and across courses were discussed and divided into two categories: those that were helpful and those that detracted from the learning process. Situations in which redundancy promoted higher learning occurred when early course material was reinforced later in the curriculum, such as when constructs from neuroscience were revisited in the practical realm of physical rehabilitation. Useful repetitions in assessment processes, such as when demonstrations reinforced earlier material on quizzes, were also identified.
Assessments within courses and across the curriculum raised several questions: Do students learn better through traditional assessment, or are they just used to it? How much assessing do we need to do? Is grading essential on most or all assessments? How do our assessments enable or disable self-regulated learning? We prioritized the need to further examine our assessment processes and their impacts on creating critical learners.
The majority of questions were targeted at our assessment practices, the amount of material we were trying to cover, and the sequencing of the material. We made gains in thinking about adjustments to courses and were able to make observations across courses. However, given our time constraints, we fell short in having an expansive conversation around program alignment and recognized the need to revisit this in our next planning steps.
Discussion
We began our study anticipating that a curriculum mapping and iterative interview process would create opportunities for reflecting about our curriculum content and pedagogical practices, advance faculty collaboration, and assist us in exploring our preparedness to implement a clinical doctorate. The outcomes of the study far exceeded our initial expectations in all of these areas. In this section we offer several observations as to why our expectations were exceeded.
Timing is everything. Conducting the study outside of the pressures of an impending accreditation visit was, in a sense, a luxury. We concur with Briggs (2007), who reflected that incremental improvement of the curriculum is a better strategy than large-scale overhaul in response to external review processes; this was our experience. We allowed ourselves to conduct a low-pressure self-study that granted us an opportunity to learn together and advance our curriculum.
Up-front acknowledgment to the faculty that engagement in the study would be adding more work to an already heavy workload was important to their ability to participate. Study tasks were divided into weekly and monthly schedules. Semimonthly check-ins at faculty meetings and monthly map submissions to the program director kept the study supported and manageable. Adhering to the time commitments for the interviews and committing significant time at retreats for analysis and action planning relieved us of the need to add meetings to our already busy schedules.
Creating the maps in real time made a difference in the kind of information produced, influencing the quality of our conversations. In the past, we examined each other’s syllabi, charted assignments to be graded, discussed how to best address standards, and at times conceded that we had a content-heavy curriculum. The real-time maps created a detailed portrait of the depth and breadth of the workload and assessments being imparted to students on a daily basis.
Why were students so grade focused? What was getting in the way of cultivating self-regulated learners? The real-time maps clearly illustrated some of the answers to these questions. The maps provided starting points to dissect, delete, or transform the curriculum. We were prompted to create new linkages, question what assessment means, and identify areas to elevate or develop for the clinical doctorate.
Less is more. Sumison and Goodfellow (2004)  proposed that because of the complexity of curricular issues, the more simplistic curriculum mapping techniques found in the literature need to be refined. In contrast, we consciously selected a simple and concise mapping template as the starting point for our process. For our study, we wanted to create a big space for reflection in what little time we had together as a department faculty. Rather than casting a wide variable net, we opted for depth of dialogue regarding our teaching practices.
Like Qualters (2009), we found laying out specific guidelines for the dialogic processes to be very helpful. Asking faculty to attend only to matters that we could change as a department, to listen to the conversations through the lens of a program director, and to set aside all personal issues restructured our conversational norms so that we could be productive toward meeting the aims of the study.
Our analysis of gaps, repetitions, assessments, and questions led to substantive conversations about larger pedagogical issues. We realized that not all faculty clearly understood the concept of self-regulated learners. We talked about sharing journal articles and specific steps that would promote a culture of skill building in this area. We recognized the need to build stronger bridges between the 1st- and 2nd-yr curriculum, and our thinking expanded about how to better use peers for academic support.
Strength lies in differences. We suspect that as a faculty body we were more similar to than different from other occupational therapy departments. We came from differing social, cultural, and political backgrounds; some of us operated more comfortably in one ontological paradigm over another; and we had various areas of expertise and interest. There were many differences among us, and as in other groups, sometimes those differences got us stuck.
Borrowing elements from the evaluation frameworks of Guba and Lincoln (1989)  helped us fashion an interview process that systematically and inclusively mapped our perceptions. Seeing where we shared positive perceptions and concerns about our program allowed us to collectively verify many areas of agreement. When we had significant differences in perceptions, adopting the deliberative democratic standpoint of House and Howe (1999)  as a framework for dialogue helped us challenge prior assumptions and gain a better understanding of contrasting perspectives. We comfortably shifted between the roles of expert and learner and began to develop shared understandings of the origins of our different points of view.
Creamer and Lattuca (2005)  defined collaboration as “a social inquiry practice that promotes learning” (p. 5). We experienced this in our study as the interviews, curriculum mapping, and iterative discussions provided a wide range of data that helped us examine our preparedness for the clinical doctorate. The processes catalyzed opportunities for collaboration and offered the beginnings of pedagogical transparency. As a department, we allowed ourselves to step outside of our routine ways of relating and into an elevated form of authentic discourse that will be useful to draw on in future deliberations. Overall, this study allowed the faculty to be confident in making the decision to move to the entry-level doctorate. Our next steps will be to incorporate components of this process as we continue to define curriculum content, outcomes, pedagogy, and assessments relevant to our doctoral program.
Limitations and Future Research
Conducting research in one’s own backyard can be tricky. Study participants may not be as forthcoming with researchers whom they know in other roles and relationships. Researchers are challenged to base their interpretations solely on the study data while setting aside any preconceptions formed from previous experiences. In our study, one of the principal researchers, Theresa Hand, was also the program director, which may have affected some of the perspectives faculty shared. To best address these potential pitfalls, we implemented rigorous strategies to ensure the trustworthiness of our findings, including ethical review and oversight, maintenance of the confidentiality of individual participant input, member checking, and external peer debriefing.
We also recognize that although occupational therapy programs adhere to the same set of standards and share similar functions, how the standards are addressed is unique to each program and the composition of the faculty. It is left to readers to interpret the degree of transferability of our processes and findings to their department.
Future studies can extend mapping processes to examine program alignment in connecting curriculum delivery to student outcomes. Incorporating perspectives from other stakeholder groups, such as students, employers, or fieldwork supervisors, can expand the range of perspectives surrounding curricular and pedagogical issues. Processes of authentic dialogue and curriculum mapping can be useful in the integration of various disciplines, such as in the development of interprofessional curricula across the health sciences. As exploration of the clinical doctorate continues among occupational therapy professionals, mapping processes designed to develop professional standards in relation to doctoral expectations can provide a useful framework for guiding the dialogues.
Implications for Occupational Therapy Education
The findings of this study have the following implications for occupational therapy education:
  • Curriculum mapping can improve the transparency of the curriculum and assist faculty in examining program alignment, pedagogy, and assessment.

  • Creating a framework for authentic dialogue that assists faculty in eliciting higher level pedagogical reflections can create a foundation for collaboration.

  • The curriculum mapping and collaborative dialogue methodologies used in this study can be adapted to other departments and programs as a strategy for formative curriculum review.

Acknowledgments
We extend our appreciation to our colleagues in the Occupational Therapy Department at The Sage Colleges for their commitment to this study. Thank you to Melissa Freeman at the University of Georgia for participating in the peer debriefing process.
  • How long have you been in the department?
  • What have your roles been, and what are your current roles?
  • Describe the culture or the learning environment when you first arrived.
    • Explore content and delivery of content (pedagogy).
  • When did major changes happen?
  • What were the major changes? Describe them.
  • What catalyzed the changes?
  • When you look back, what areas stand out as having gotten stronger?
  • Looking at the program now, what areas need to be bolstered?
  • Describe the culture and learning environment of the program now.
  • What is our teaching philosophy?
  • How would you describe the roles and relationships of teachers and students?
    • Probe: Is the program teacher centered versus student centered? Provide examples.
  • What choices do we offer students?
  • What other or additional choices would you like to be offered?
  • What things should we be emphasizing across the curriculum?
  • If you were to make a recommendation about one significant programmatic change, what would that be?
  • Anything else?
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Figure 1.
Overview of the study processes.
Figure 1.
Overview of the study processes.
×
Figure 2.
Completed course map provided to faculty as an example.
Note. APA = Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (American Psychological Association, 2010); IRB = institutional review board.
aThese assessments are formally graded. bProtocols developed by the Occupational Therapy Evidence Based Practice Research Group at McMaster University that provide frameworks for critically reviewing quantitative and qualitative research articles (Law et al., 2008). cCertificate provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) verifying that a researcher has completed training in protecting human research participants (NIH Office of Extramural Research, 2013).
Figure 2.
Completed course map provided to faculty as an example.
Note. APA = Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (American Psychological Association, 2010); IRB = institutional review board.
aThese assessments are formally graded. bProtocols developed by the Occupational Therapy Evidence Based Practice Research Group at McMaster University that provide frameworks for critically reviewing quantitative and qualitative research articles (Law et al., 2008). cCertificate provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) verifying that a researcher has completed training in protecting human research participants (NIH Office of Extramural Research, 2013).
×
Table 1.
Summary of the Curriculum Mapping Analysis Across Retreats
Summary of the Curriculum Mapping Analysis Across Retreats×
ThemeSummary of Analysis
GapsBolstering of certain content areas
Creation of stronger links between certain courses
More attention to certain populations
Integration of emerging practice areas
Struggle with moving to student-centered and occupation-focused learning
RepetitionsRedundancies that promote higher level learning
Redundancies that detract from the learning process
AssessmentsNeed to further examine how assessments can be best used as a learner-focused tool rather than an outcome measure
Need to further explore how best to use peer feedback and self-assessed learning
Ways we are enhancing or detracting from cultivating self-regulated learners in our assessment processes
QuestionsSequence of course activities and courses
Role and usefulness of value-added topics and assessments
Table 1.
Summary of the Curriculum Mapping Analysis Across Retreats
Summary of the Curriculum Mapping Analysis Across Retreats×
ThemeSummary of Analysis
GapsBolstering of certain content areas
Creation of stronger links between certain courses
More attention to certain populations
Integration of emerging practice areas
Struggle with moving to student-centered and occupation-focused learning
RepetitionsRedundancies that promote higher level learning
Redundancies that detract from the learning process
AssessmentsNeed to further examine how assessments can be best used as a learner-focused tool rather than an outcome measure
Need to further explore how best to use peer feedback and self-assessed learning
Ways we are enhancing or detracting from cultivating self-regulated learners in our assessment processes
QuestionsSequence of course activities and courses
Role and usefulness of value-added topics and assessments
×