Location: Indiana, United States

I became a Professor Emeritus after serving 29 years as a recreational therapy faculty member at Indiana University. I'm a long-time Hoosier, having grown up in Hanover, Indiana. My RT practitioner work was in psych/mental health. After completing my Ph.D. at the University of Illinois, my first faculty position was at the University of North Texas. RT has been a wonderful profession for me as I have had the opportunity to serve as an author and national leader.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

RT Educators Lack Confidence and Optimism

I just completed reading Jan Walker’s book titled Control and the Psychology of Health that came out in 2001. It is a wonderful resource and should be recommended reading for all RTs – and especially those who are RT faculty.

Walker provides a comprehensive look at concepts related to control and then, in the final chapter, proposes a new model for the concept of control. As I read the last chapter, I could not but help think of how Walker’s ideas related to RT – and, specifically, to RT curriculum development (or the lack thereof).

Some of Walker’s propositions in the chapter on a unifying theory of control are:

*Control reflects the attainment of desired outcomes in a given situation.
*Perceived control normally reflects actual control, though illusions of control may occur under normal conditions by chance. It is also influenced by past history of control and lack of control.
*Perceived uncertainty and perceived unpredictability are sufficient but not necessary conditions for perceived uncontrollability.
*Perceived control is associated with confidence and optimism.
*Perceived uncertainty and unpredictability are associated with anxiety.
*Perceived personal control and perceived social support should be viewed as complementary variables in relation to control.
*Personal control is preferable to social support, since it is more reliable and sustainable.

Control is something that most RTs try to foster in their clients. While RTs attempt to help clients to gain social skills (that may translate to building social support), much of the focus of interventions is on helping clients to develop personal control so they may rely on themselves. Yet, RT educators have not chosen to take personal control in their own lives -- at least as their lives relate to RT curriculum and what they teach their students.

Educators have failed to establish strong national standards for RT curricula. In relating the concept of control to RT curriculum, I observe a lack of perceived control on the part of RT educators.

It is my view that RT educators have not perceived themselves to truly be in control of RT curriculum. They have not believed that their profession was separate from parks, recreation, and leisure curricula and, therefore, have not felt in control of the RT curriculum. Efforts to gain control typically have lead to uncertainty with resulting feelings of anxiety – and for some depression. In the end, the outcome has been ensuring inactivity.

The lack of success in curriculum reform has produced uncertainty and unpredictability about the future -- and a lack of confidence and optimism on the parts of many. I can attest that a large number of RTs and RT educators are "turned off" by the lack of progress on RT curriculum reform. They are exasperated. They lack confidence in leaders to move forward. Some feel helpless or even hopeless.

What can be done to remedy the situation? It seems to me that the first thing is for RT educators to recognize that RT is a unique profession (separate from parks, recreation, and leisure), that requires a specific preparation. Once this step is taken, RT educators can assume personal control or responsibility for RT curricula. They can then join with practitioners to move RT curriculum reform forward.

If RT educators choose not to “own” their profession of RT and to rely on others outside of their profession to control curricular decisions, then feelings of anxiety, helplessness, hopelessness, and depression will continue. It will be only when RT educators are willing to assume personal control for RT curricula that they will be able to move forth with confidence and optimism.


Blogger Skalko said...

Thanks for some interesting thoughts, Dave.

It seems that educators have not fully accepted their ethical responsibility with regard to RT practice competencies and the consumers we serve. The level of change and commitment to revamp existing curriculua models is significant.
I also believe that RT and Recreation and Park degrees (yes, separate degrees) can co-exist under R&P administative structures. It is time to explore that change at the individual institution level. I think RT can florish under separate and distinct degree programs that are not overly compromised by too many recreation courses eating away critical competencies for RT practice.
Perhaps you are correct, the recent curriculum reform discussion seems to have stalled.
Maybe it is time to reactivate the discussion.

Thom Skalko

9:42 PM  

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