Building competencies of occupational therapists as change agents
Change agent is one of six supporting roles specified in the CAOT Profile of Practice 2012 for being an Expert in Enabling Occupation. The ACOTUP Academic Education Committee (AEC) took advantage of the last CAOT conference to hold a forum reuniting practicing OTs, students and academics to critically reflect on how Canadian occupational therapy (OT) university programs foster this competency. The aim of this AEC Forum was to facilitate sharing of multiple perspectives on curriculum theories, content, processes, and learning outcomes best suited to increase competencies related to the role of Change Agent in order that OTs become prepared to respond effectively to socio-historical- political forces shaping their practice and the occupations of their clients.
Through Igniter Talks current issues associated with the development of political competencies were presented with illustrations of, and reflections on, strategies/approaches currently in use and being considered for use. For instance, Dr Andrew Freeman (U Laval) insisted on the importance of developing political competencies, with a contextual, economical and populational perspective. Dr Carrie Marshall (Western University) offered a perspective on how we should unpack these competencies, as she invited participants to refuse to uphold the status quo that is not working, to become comfortable with conflicts and to support one another to be political. Finally, Mrs. Giovanna Boniface (CAOT – UBC) strived to unpack what it is to be a change agent, inviting participants to embrace advocacy as one of their most important role. She asked occupational therapists to acknowledge their existing knowledge, skills and tools in that role and to get involved.
Participants then participated in a World Café to share their own knowledge and perspectives and to critically dialogue how Change Agent competencies could be developed and operationalized within Canadian OT curricula and/or ongoing professional development. Eight groups (n= 6-8 participants) discussed the two following questions:
- As you reflect on your experiences and observations: What would you have liked to learn to become an effective change agent? What would have been useful to learn
- Reflecting on your experiences and observations: What are the needed skills to navigate within and across challenging contexts in order to address occupational issues? How should these competencies be learned or taught?
Notes from all tables were gathered and will be further analyzed by an ad-hoc sub-committee of Academic Education Committee (AEC). Members of this working group are: Shami Dhillon, Andrew Freeman, Debbie Laliberte-Rudman, Joan Versnel, Catherine Vallée and Hiba Zafran. They have the mandate to think, reflect and work on the development of political competencies related to the role of change agent within educational programs, and report back to the AEC and the ACOTUP Board of Directors for further actions.
Given the growing awareness of, and knowledge about, the impacts of socio-political-historical forces on (1) the occupational opportunities available to individuals and collectives, and (2) on OT practice itself, the outputs of this forum will likely have important practice implications. Debates and discussions will enrich the work of the AEC subcommittee and their forth coming report. Through this initiative, the AEC strives to provide a unique and timely opportunity for constructive dialogue and strategic thinking to help transform OT education towards the development and acquisition of competencies supporting the roles as Change Agent.