Document Type (Journals)

Original Research


Previous review research has outlined the state of various aspects of occupational therapy education. No reviews, however, have examined how theory, specifically, is represented in educational scholarship. This systematic mapping review explored the way in which theory, as it relates to both occupational therapy practice and pedagogy, has been discussed throughout occupational therapy education scholarship. In the education scholarship, theory pertaining to occupational therapy practice often overlaps with theory pertaining to pedagogy; therefore, both domains were included in the review. A systematic search for occupational therapy education literature published between 1940 and 2015 resulted in 9765 unique citations, 556 of which met inclusion criteria. Papers were coded for curriculum design, teaching methods, research design, and theoretical content. This paper presents findings related to theoretical content. Results demonstrated that theory, when referenced, referred to established social science theories more prominently than occupational therapy specific theory, until recent decades. Further, theory was often treated as a footnote to the main discussion rather than as a focal point. The authors discuss the importance of prioritizing a line of scholarship surrounding how to convey theory in such a way that it better informs pedagogy as well as the processes of evaluation, planning, and intervention. This comprehensive historical review serves to orient occupational therapy scholars to the past and present state of theory while also shedding light on its necessary inclusion in future scholarship.


Rachel Heeb, OTD, OTR is an occupational therapist and current PhD student in Rehabilitation and Participation Science in St. Louis, MO. Email: heebr@wustl.edu Tel: 785-764-038

Barbara Hooper, PhD, OTR, FAOTA is the Founding Program Director and Division Chief for the Occupational Therapy Doctorate Division at Duke University School of Medicine. Email: barbara.hooper@duke.edu

Steven D. Taff, PhD, OTR/L, FNAP, FAOTA is Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy and Medicine and Director, Division of Professional Education for the Program in Occupational Therapy at Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO. Email: taffs@wustl.edu Tel: 314-286-0043

Declaration of Interest

The authors report no declarations of interest.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.