This paper describes an entry-level curriculum based on systems theory that was designed to promote integrated thinking and a shared image of practice among all of the members of an educational community that included students, faculty, and clinicians. Initiated in 1983, the program integrates occupational therapy theory, critical thinking, and knowledge about person–environmental transactions with traditional medical, biological, psychological, and sociological course work to create a unique educational experience. The curriculum model is based on a spiral learning process that encourages integrated thinking. Furthermore, all concepts are systematically tied to the occupation core, the central theme of the program. Fieldwork is used to reinforce ideas presented in the classroom and features discrete learning experiences where students demonstrate their integration of knowledge and skills.
In an evaluation of the program, responses from 78 clinician, 51 alumni, and 132 student questionnaires; feedback from 132 fieldwork supervisors; and longitudinal data from 33 alumni confirmed that graduates are critical thinkers who appreciate the diverse needs of clients while demonstrating an appreciation for the curative effect of meaningful, goal-directed activities.