Document Type (Journals)

Original Research


Critical thinking is a component of occupational therapy education that is often intertwined with professional reasoning, even though it is a distinct construct. While other professions have focused on describing and studying the disciplinary-specific importance of critical thinking, the small body of literature in occupational therapy education on critical thinking has not been systematically analyzed. Therefore, a systematic mapping review was conducted to examine, describe, and map existing scholarly work about critical thinking in occupational therapy education. Inclusion/exclusion criteria were set, database searches conducted, and 63 articles identified that met criteria for full review based on their abstracts. Thirty-five articles were excluded during full review, leaving 28 articles for analysis and coding using a data extraction tool. Eleven articles (39%) had a primary focus of critical thinking, and of those 11 articles, the majority were about instructional methods. Qualitative inquiry (n = 9) was the most frequently used method to examine critical thinking among the study full sample (N = 28). Four themes emerged: 1) critical thinking is a process with varied outcomes; 2) learner aptitude is essential for developing critical thinking; 3) critical thinking can be facilitated through various methods; and 4) critical thinking underpins other important constructs in occupational therapy. Needs that were identified were that critical thinking is best intentionally threaded across a curriculum with outcomes in mind; and more studies examining critical thinking in occupational therapy education, employing diverse designs, are needed.


Jennifer S. Pitonyak, PhD, OTR/L, SCFES, Associate Professor and Associate Director, School of Occupational Therapy, University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, WA.

Sarah Nielsen, PhD, OTR/L, Associate Professor, Department of Occupational Therapy, School of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND.

Shirley P. O’Brien, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, Professor, Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, KY.

Cecille Corsilles-Sy, PhD, OTR/L, Director for the Occupational Therapy Assistant Program, Pima Medical Institute, Renton, WA.

Devon Olson Lambert, MLIS, Research & Education Librarian, School of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND.

Lynn E. Jaffe, ScD, OTR/L, FAOTA, Professor and Program Director for Occupational Therapy, Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Myers, FL.

Declaration of Interest

The authors report no declarations of interest.

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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.