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The Future of RT/TR Education: Results from the ATRA Higher Education Task Force Study

Patricia J. Craig, Brent L. Hawkins, Lynn S. Anderson, Candy Ashton-Forrester, Marcia Jean Carter


In 2016, the American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA) Board of Directors created a task force within its Higher Education Committee to study the educational requirements for entry-level education in recreational therapy/therapeutic recreation (RT/TR) and make recommendations to the Board. From 2016-2018, the task force planned and implemented a multiphase mixed methods study with approximately 2,000 RT/ TR practitioners, educators, students, and credentialing and accrediting bodies from across the United States and Canada. During the first phase of the study, in-person focus groups were completed with 25 practitioner groups (N=257), 10 educator groups (N=49), and 17 student groups (N=222) at 19 state and regional conferences and meetings, as well as during four online focus groups using the Zoom videoconferencing platform. Interviews were conducted with board members of six RT/TR credentialing and accrediting bodies. During the second phase of the study, online surveys were completed by RT/TR practitioners (N=1,663), educators (N=141), and students (N=483). The central finding suggests the most current and pressing need in higher education is to improve the quality and consistency of the bachelor’s degree in RT/TR. Five mixed-method results supporting the central finding are presented, and data-driven recommendations to improve professional preparation in RT/TR are discussed.

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Entry-level practice; higher education; mixed methods; professional preparation in recreational therapy/therapeutic recreation

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