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Scholarship in occupational therapy faculty: The interaction of cultural forces in academic departments

Cathy A Dow-Royer, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Over the last two decades there has been heightened interest in redefining faculty scholarship in higher education (Boyer, 1990). Trends have included the development of cultural frameworks for understanding how disciplines and institutions influence faculty work and how socialization processes impact academic career development. Despite the fact that the number of occupational therapy practitioners who have pursued doctoral training in pursuit of an academic career has failed to keep up with the need for qualified faculty, academic interest in developing disciplinary scholars to build the knowledge base of professional practice has been slow to develop. Furthermore, leadership interest in guiding the development of future faculty by studying how current occupational therapy faculty members are developing as scholars has been limited (AOTA, 2003). The purpose of this study was to develop a framework for describing scholarship in occupational therapy faculty members. A theoretically grounded case study design guided the selection of two occupational therapy departments, representing both a research university and a master’s college. Narrative data from occupational therapy faculty members in these institutions provided in-depth perceptions of how faculty members in diverse institutional settings develop a professional identity. Rich understandings of how clinical and academic socialization processes converge as faculty members in academic departments integrate competing influences from the academic culture, the institutional culture, and the professional culture to prioritize faculty work roles. The study revealed that although occupational therapy departments are succeeding within their institutional contexts, personal faculty priorities as clinicianteachers and institutional missions that create an imbalance in roles that favor teaching, continue to disadvantage certain faculty sub-cultures from evolving as disciplinary scholars. The implications of the failure of occupational therapy faculty members to adapt the researcher role as part of a professional identity include barriers to the development of disciplinary knowledge to support practice, and to the development of successful faculty careers that can be advanced in any institutional environment. The study identified a critical role for program leadership to act as change agents within departmental cultures to balance the need for productive disciplinary scholars, as well as effective clinician-teachers.

Subject Area

Physical therapy|Occupational Therapy|Health education|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Dow-Royer, Cathy A, "Scholarship in occupational therapy faculty: The interaction of cultural forces in academic departments" (2010). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3409569.