Maralynne D. Mitcham; Education as Engine. Am J Occup Ther 2014;68(6):636–648. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2014.686001
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© 2021 American Occupational Therapy Association
The pull of education is a powerful engine for societal change. Education is a values-driven product with specific and objective aims that serve society. The values of professional occupational therapy education were laid down at the field’s inception, although they have changed with the passage of time and in response to the profession’s and society’s occupational needs. Learning is different from education and is an individual process that requires facilitators with well-honed pedagogies if it is to fuel the engine pulling the profession forward. Keeping occupation as the central core of the profession serves as a necessary filter that allows more diligent thinking and linking between occupation and other relevant topics. Living life to its fullest—our own lives and the lives of our service recipients—demonstrates progress in the idiosyncratic arrangement of habits and routines that are personally meaningful, socially satisfying, and culturally relevant.
Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others. —Cicero, 106–43 BC
Do more deductive thinking about occupational therapy Education as Product at the macro or societal level. Consider the whole commodity box before the raw materials, and keep the thinking impersonal
Do more debating about the raw materials, using readily available existing criteria to help us debate, especially about entry-level education
Do more discussing about how the ultimately agreed-on product (1) honors what has gone before, (2) reflects on what’s to come, and (3) effectively transmits to succeeding generations.
Learning something new: Students select a career path and come into our occupational therapy educational programs.
Learning something advanced: Practitioners choose to expand upon what they already know; for example, they may pursue an advanced degree, continuing education, or specialty and board certification.
Learning something completely different: Practitioners choose to retool their career and go in a completely different direction. For example, they feel they can serve the older adult population more effectively by becoming a lawyer who practices elder law, or perhaps they want to enter the policymaking or population health arena.
Perceive what they learn will have a positive or preventive outcome for their health condition;
Realize that they may have to learn anew that which has been lost or never tried; and
Relearn new ways to complete familiar tasks of everyday life.
Do more initial occupational filtering so we know what we are seeing, hearing, and thinking before we begin any new learning process;
Do more cognizant centering of occupation as core for all learning initiatives, especially those that involve service recipients; and
Do more explicit planning to promote thinking and linking when we are learning ourselves or facilitating learning for others.
Education as Product shows how a collective power source can benefit society and how it has the power to transmit knowledge, skills, and values over time, honoring the past and welcoming the future. In so doing, we connect and participate in professional and civic mechanisms or advocate in select circles of influence, much like Eleanor Clarke Slagle, to bring about societal-level change.
Learning as Process shows how an energy source provides power for individuals so that they may transport themselves through the lived experience of learning and how others may facilitate their learning. In so doing, we directly lead change processes in our professional and personal lives, thereby empowering each of us to use our personal experience for the betterment of all.
Living as Progress allows us to demonstrate how the power of life journey allows for actions large and small that can improve conditions, create lives of meaning, and transform that which we hold in the palm of our hand, and as elegantly expressed by Mary Reilly (1962) in her Slagle Lecture, “Man, through the use of his hands, as they are energized by mind and will, can influence the state of his own health” (p. 9). The power of these words continues down through the generations.
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