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Developing culturally safe, responsive professionals – what do Australian occupational therapy educators have to say about internalisationation of the curriculum?

Friday 5 July: Conference day three, 10:30am – 11:00am parallel session



Room 10 – 303-B07 Sem



Shinead Borkovic
La Trobe University, Australia



Goals relating to the preparation of globally competent graduates or global citizens are incorporated in the internationalisation plans of many Australian universities. Leask (2017) suggests that one way of achieving institutional internationalisation goals is to embed global citizenship learning into existing discipline-specific curriculum. Additionally, the World Federation of Occupational Therapy (WFOT) endorses important principles such as diversity, human rights and intercultural competence, some of which directly reflect global citizenship capabilities. WFOT also recommends these principles be embedded in occupational therapy education (WFOT, 2009). Likewise, the Australian Occupational Therapy Competency Standards (2018) recognise that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples hold many cultural values and beliefs, which are diverse, complex and evolving and in turn support the need for learning to ensure respectful, collaborative, safe and culturally responsive practice (p. 4).


The initiative/practice

This study explores approaches used in Australia to educate occupational therapy students to be culturally competent, safe and responsive practitioners and citizens. Further, it analyses how students are being prepared for practice with diverse populations and contexts, alongside a particular focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People’s underlying social and cultural traditions.  This responds to the global and cultural knowledge, awareness and action required of the occupational therapy profession as identified by Kerrigan, Grabowski, Watts, Bowers, and Witchger (2015).


Method(s) of evaluative data collection and analysis

Guided by an interpretive methodology, qualitative content analysis using an inductive coding process (Hsieh & Shannon, 2005) of text within current national guidelines for occupational therapy education and practice has determined the extent and nature of global citizenship and cultural diversity coverage. Further, using the same inductive coding process, text derived from interviews with sixteen Australian occupational therapy educators explored the ways in which students are being educated and prepared for professional practice in Indigenous and culturally diverse, connected and globalised contexts and the extent to which the curriculum and teaching practice are influenced by the aforementioned guidelines, or other considerations, such as personal beliefs and values of the educators.


Evidence of effectiveness

Findings from this study provide a detailed analysis on cultural diversity and global citizenship education and design in Australian occupational therapy programs from participating universities. Further, findings from this analysis are being used to guide and inform the development of a best practice framework for cultural diversity and global citizenship education for occupational therapy educators and university managers wishing to develop or review internationalisation strategies for occupational therapy or other allied health courses within their universities.



Clifford, V. & Montgomery, C. (2017). Designing an internationalized curriculum for higher education: embracing the local and the global citizen. Higher Education Research and Development, DOI: 10.1080/07294360.2017.1296413.
Hsieh, H. & Shannon, S. (2005). Three Approaches to Qualitative Content Analysis. Qualitative Health Research, 15(9), 1277-1288. DOI: 1177/1049732305276687
Kerrigan, K., Grabowski, L., Watts, A., Bowers, K. & Witchger, A. (2015). How Occupational Therapists Develop, Maintain and Sustain Global Partnerships: A Qualitative Study. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 59(1), DOI: 10.5014/ajot.2015.69S1-PO2092
Leask, B. (2017). Internationalization of the curriculum, teaching and learning, Springer Encyclopaedia of International Higher Education.
Occupational Therapy Board of Australia (2018). Australian Occupational Therapy Competency Standards. Retrieved from
World Federation of Occupational Therapy. (2009). Code of Ethics. Retrieved from


Presentation topic

Academics – Changing Academic Practice

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