Standards (Self-Study Guide)

Academic Accreditation Standards and Self-Study Guide (CAOT, 2011)

Please note this material is copyright of CAOT, and anyone wishing to use the material should cite the author.

Trends That Shape the CAOT Accreditation Program

There are numerous domestic and global trends that have shaped the final content and process of the CAOT Accreditation Standards and Self-Study Guide (2011).
These trends are:

Accountability through accreditation

Academic accreditation in Canada is voluntary, but ultimately it is the sole instrument to ensure the consistent monitoring of quality and integrity within education programs (Glidden, 2004). As a system it is also recognized by the World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT 2005), which is the organization that acknowledges the quality of occupational therapy educational programs internationally. Consequently, stakeholders such as the educational programs and the institutions themselves, as well as students and prospective students, licensing and examination bodies, the profession, and the consumer, are all assured of a consistent outcome with graduates of accredited programs in Canada.
Accreditation provides four key elements to assure quality monitoring and ensure quality education:

  1. It provides additional attention to the evidence of institutional and program performance.
  2. It supports and draws attention to evidence of student learning outcomes. 
  3. It provides better information to the public. 
  4. It helps governments recognize that the institution must decide the expectations and evidence of performance and outcomes (Glidden, 2004). 
Therefore an accredited program maintains credibility and visibility for the educational institution. The quality component provides assurance that the program meets the standard of the professional group and is supported by a continuous quality review process. Stakeholders are assured that the university is committed to improving the status of the program for students, prospective students, and scholars. CAOT accreditation assures institutions that the educational program meets pre-determined standards of the profession and is recognized by their Canadian colleagues and the World Federation of Occupational Therapists. This, in turn, assures the student of a certain degree of domestic and global professional mobility upon graduation.

Outcome-based education

The demand for accountability in professional education drives the growth of outcome measures in academic accreditation. An education program must provide potential new practitioners with outcome-based education that will allow them to work in an evolving environment of practice (CAOT, 2004b). To remain competitive within the domestic and international marketplace, professional education programs “must establish and mark progress towards the achievement of outcomes” (O’Neil, 1994). As an outcome orientation becomes more systematically incorporated into accreditation, it will also drive decisions affecting policy development, strategic planning, and resource allocation (Bezold, 1994). Outcome data can be used to demonstrate the importance of the profession to prospective students, potential clients, and funders of education (Glidden, 2004).

The powerful combination of self-report and qualitative measures in the latest document provides the market place with assurance that graduates from Canadian programs have graduated from quality education programs (Fitzpatrick, Sanders & Worthen, 2004; Patton, 1997)

Demonstrating educational effectiveness

O’Neil (1994) suggests that accreditation should support continuous improvement of the quality of the graduate. CAOT academic accreditation is an integrated system that attempts to link the standards to graduate performance through continuous improvement in educational programming. The 2011 CAOT document guides the educational program through a process of self-study to identify the measures of effectiveness.

Diversity and regional approach to entry-level professional education

The Profile of Occupational Therapy Practice in Canada (CAOT, 2007) recognizes the wide range of requirements of occupational therapists for today’s practice context. . It primarily reflects the expectations of a “competent” level of occupational therapy practice and also describes a “proficient” level of occupational therapy practice in a given role. The Profile defines the “competent” occupational therapist as an occupational therapist who meets or exceeds the minimal and ongoing performance expectations and demonstrates the requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities for safe and effective practice of occupational therapy at the beginning of and throughout their career. The seven main ‘roles’ of the occupational therapist defined and described in the profile (2007) include:

  1. Expert in Enabling Occupation;
  2. Communicator;
  3. Collaborator;
  4. Practice Manager;
  5. Change Agent;
  6. Scholarly Practitioner; and
  7. Professional.
The Profile (2007) provides a foundation for educational standards, continuing education and practice guidelines. It also contributes to the blueprint of the CAOT National Occupational Therapy Certification Examination (NOTCE). Public funding in higher education is currently not meeting the needs of post-secondary education. Professional programs are often the most costly to operate in a university system. Within the context of this national economic reality, educational programs are encouraged to develop a distinctive curriculum plan by capitalizing on their own institutional and regional resource base as long as they demonstrate that the Profile requirements have been met. This meets two purposes as stated earlier: It provides a clear, obvious description of the outcome of the program and provides evidence to the university, government, and public of the competencies of the graduates to contribute to the future of health care (Glidden, 2004; Fitzpatrick et al., 2004).The Profile has provided the foundation for the CAOT accreditation program to evolve into an outcome-based model. This evolution has also reshaped the CAOT accreditation program to support continuous quality improvement and long-term planning that address a wide-range of educational programs.

Global leadership 

Accrediting organizations are encouraged to develop common world-class quality assurance systems with other professions and countries (Taylor, 1995; Peace Lenn, 1996). An international and transdisciplinary perspective serves to maintain excellence in higher education and research, and to assure continued leadership for Canada in the future. The accreditation process described in the CAOT Academic Accreditation Standards and Self-Study Guide (2011 edition) has the potential to be adapted or harmonized with other accrediting bodies nationally and internationally and reflects current and emerging educational practice including Interprofessional education (indicator 2.3) CAOT 2009).

The CAOT Academic Accreditation Standards and Self-Study Guide (2011) include a Canadian set of academic accreditation standards to promote the global mobility of graduates. CAOT’s international relationships and collaborative activities strengthen the position of CAOT members as global leaders in occupational therapy education, practice and research, and publications.
International trade agreements.

International trade agreements drive the growth of common standards. They have vast implications for the professions as well as for educators and accrediting agencies. The premise is to encourage prosperity by reducing barriers to employment for the member countries. Accreditation is regarded as an objective way of determining whether a professional program in one country meets the standards in another country (Ascher, 1996). The CAOT accreditation standards not only meet the world standards established by WFOT (WFOT, 2004) but also exceeds them, promoting mobility of Canadian graduates.