Preparing Graduate Students To Carry Out Their Roles and Responsibilities in a School-Based Setting Today’s school-based speech-language pathologists (SLPs) serve children across a wide range of communicative disorders and perform duties in a variety of service delivery settings. Student learning outcomes in graduate communication sciences and disorders (CSD) preparation programs must reflect these expanding roles of SLPs as they prepare candidates for practice in ... Article
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Article  |   June 2012
Preparing Graduate Students To Carry Out Their Roles and Responsibilities in a School-Based Setting
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • SallyAnn Giess
    Communication Sciences and Disorders Program, Chapman University, Orange, CA
  • Kelly Farquharson Schussler
    Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE
  • Jennifer Walsh Means
    College of Health Sciences, West Chester University, West Chester, PA
  • Mary Dale Fitzgerald
    Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, Tennessee State University, Nashville, TN
Article Information
School-Based Settings / Professional Issues & Training / Articles
Article   |   June 2012
Preparing Graduate Students To Carry Out Their Roles and Responsibilities in a School-Based Setting
SIG 10 Perspectives on Issues in Higher Education, June 2012, Vol. 15, 11-15. doi:10.1044/ihe15.1.11
SIG 10 Perspectives on Issues in Higher Education, June 2012, Vol. 15, 11-15. doi:10.1044/ihe15.1.11

Today’s school-based speech-language pathologists (SLPs) serve children across a wide range of communicative disorders and perform duties in a variety of service delivery settings. Student learning outcomes in graduate communication sciences and disorders (CSD) preparation programs must reflect these expanding roles of SLPs as they prepare candidates for practice in the schools. Recognizing this challenge, a committee of SLPs in higher education created the University Outreach Committee (UOC) document. This document puts an ASHA practice policy into action by providing learning outcomes, formative assessments, and artifacts that university academic and clinical faculty can use to prepare graduate CSD students for work in schools.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the paper are not the official views of ASHA Special Interest Group 16 and are solely the views of the authors. The University Outreach Committee referred to throughout this document was sunsetted in January 2011.
In 2007, the steering committee for American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) Special Interest Group (SIG) 16, School-Based Issues (then known as Special Interest Division 16) identified a number of initiatives for the SIG’s strategic plan. One initiative was to increase the participation of university academic and clinic faculty in SIG 16. Out of this initiative, we formed the University Outreach Committee (UOC). One idea committee members discussed was to complete a survey of university-based SIG 16 affiliates addressing issues critical to preparing clinicians for school-based employment as well as developing goals, initiatives, and products (Online Chats, Perspectives topics) to address issues specific to preparation of school-based clinicians at the university level. The committee developed a more specific mission statement.

The mission of the UOC is to unite professionals in speech-language pathology, including those in higher education and school-based practice, in their efforts to prepare students in communication sciences and disorders programs for careers as school-based speech-language pathologists. Recognizing that there is a gap between clinical and academic course work and practicum and practical application in the schools, the members of this committee strive to bridge this gap through professional discussion and development, including use of ASHA resources and collaboration with ASHA personnel, identifying academic programs and faculty that address school-based issues, and by addressing curricula weaknesses in academic coursework and clinical training.

It has been several years since that initial meeting, however, the committee has remained focused on the needs of future school-based clinicians in their academic training programs and how university faculty can meet those needs. Ultimately, the committee aims to develop a professional resource document for university academic and clinical faculty tied to the ASHA Position Statement on Roles and Responsibilities of Speech-Language Pathologists in Schools (ASHA, 2010). In this position statement, the Ad Hoc Committee on the Roles and Responsibilities of Speech-Language Pathologists identified four areas as integral to service provision within schools: critical roles, range of responsibilities, collaboration, and leadership. Members of the UOC saw a need to link the four areas and critical roles identified in the position statement to graduate student learning outcomes and asked the question, “What does this mean in terms of academic preparation?”
The Roles and Responsibilities of the School-Based Clinician
There are many practice policy documents available to speech-language pathologists (SLPs), including those that support and inform school-based SLPs in their critical role within the educational system (ASHA, 2011). The Roles and Responsibilities Position Statement is the official policy from ASHA (2010). This document is a resource for SLPs in various school settings (i.e., public, private, charter, cyber, etc.) and also should be used by university faculty in order to ensure that graduate students are receiving the most current information in preparation for a career as a school-based SLP. Like SLPs in all settings, SLPs who are university faculty have endless “to-do” lists and responsibilities. Often, reading and disseminating information from a large policy document such as the Roles and Responsibilities document (ASHA, 2010) may not be a priority. However, the information is important not only to those faculty but to the students whom they serve. One way that university faculty can use these policies best is by putting the information into action-related terms.
The Roles and Responsibilities of SLPs in Schools (ASHA, 2010)—henceforth referred to as R and R (2010)—provides the basis for speech-language services in schools to promote efficient and effective outcomes for students. According to the R and R (ASHA, 2010), SLPs are considered to be an essential member of school faculty, playing a crucial role in children’s education. With the current rise of inclusive services, SLPs are moving from a more traditional service delivery model of pull-out therapy to one of “push-in” therapy. This transition not only affects the SLPs and the children whom they serve, but the classroom teachers who now have an “extra body” in the room. In a 1997 survey, SLPs reported that their relationship with the classroom teacher was the biggest barrier to successful implementation of inclusive services (Beck & Dennis, 1997). Researchers also found that both SLPs and teachers agree that a team-teaching approach, in which both professionals play equal roles, is the most appropriate method for inclusion. However, the most frequently used method is not team-teaching, but one in which the SLP serves as an assistant to the teacher (Beck & Dennis, 1997). Clearly, this method is inappropriate as it does not allow the SLP to focus on his or her specialized training in language and literacy. Interestingly, both SLPs and teachers reported not having any professional development training on collaborative methods for implementing classroom-based interventions as a team. If inclusion is going to be successful, it seems prudent to start at the beginning with comprehensive preparation for graduate students who want to pursue careers in the schools.
University faculty members have a responsibility to prepare graduate students to be independent school-based clinicians. Based on survey data from Means (2009) only 64% of programs require students to complete coursework dedicated to school-based programming, yet more than 90% of the students in those programs complete a school-based practicum. Because of this, universities and colleges need to prepare students more thoroughly for this setting. Student clinicians need to begin their school-based practicum with the necessary tools to function within the school setting without adding burden to the school supervisor to instruct the student. The purpose of the UOC document is to provide university faculty and school-based practicum supervisors with clear and concise learning objectives and action items (referred to as artifacts) from the R and R (ASHA, 2010) document.
The University Outreach Committee Professional Resource Document
The professional resource document the UOC developed (see Supplemental PDF) provides academic and clinical faculty in CSD programs with specific terminal knowledge and skills that they should expect graduate student clinicians to develop, along with suggested projects or artifacts and formative assessments designed to demonstrate those targeted outcomes based on the four critical areas from the R and R (ASHA, 2010).
The UOC developed the outcomes and competencies in the professional resource document to correspond with each of the four critical roles enumerated in the R and R position statement (ASHA, 2010). Within each of its four sections, the committee provides theoretical information grounded in current empirical research. The committee updates this information regularly to reflect the rapid changes seen in the field. They also identified artifacts, including formative assessments and projects, to accompany those learning outcomes or competencies.
University faculty can use the competencies and associated artifacts the UOC describes in the document to develop content and assess student learning outcomes in coursework dedicated to preparation of students for practice in school-based settings. For example, the learner outcome “understand federal and state level initiatives such as IST and RtI” and the associated artifact “role play team meetings using case study materials to create full team IST and RtI plans using EBP” are related to the R & R area: Range of Responsibilities- Prevention (ASHA, 2010). Faculty can use this artifact as a classroom simulation or course cooperative activity.
The professional resource document also presents a comprehensive checklist of specific knowledge and skill proficiencies graduate clinicians should obtain during a school-based practicum. For example, the learner outcome “understand specialized curricula and integration of services” and the associated artifact “create lesson plans in conjunction with classroom teachers to incorporate current curriculum” ties to the R and R critical area of Critical Roles: Serving the Full Range of Communication Disorders (ASHA, 2010). This is a specific skill faculty must assess during a school-based practicum experience. Thus, faculty in preservice training programs in CSD can use this document to design class content, activities, or student projects in dedicated courses in school-based practice issues or to develop specific practicum assignments or clinical projects for student portfolios in clinical coursework.
In addition, the resource document might be useful for graduate students as the basis for a self-assessment of their knowledge and skills. Areas that graduate students identify as weak can be the focus of additional projects and study before entering clinical practice in a school. For example, the learner outcome “recognize parent needs in community and at school site” and the associated artifact/project “conduct parent workshops on topics of interest to community such as language facilitation, literacy facilitation and support for behavior issues” is related to the R & R critical area of Leadership: Parent Training (ASHA, 2010). This competency/learning outcome can serve as one of a series of self-rating scale items for students to complete prior to and immediately following a school-based externship. Students can self-rate their developing knowledge and skill proficiencies based on a five point rating scale of items such as “I can recognize parent needs in community and at school site”.
University programs also can use the resource document to support and guide their cooperating SLP clinical supervisors in affiliate school sites in which their graduate students are placed. The student learning outcomes can serve as a foundation for university faculty and school practitioner collaboration in training students for the changing role of school SLPs. For example, the learner outcome “propose a practice-based (action) research project to address a critical unmet need identified in current school-based practice” and the associated artifact “proposal for an action-based research study to be conducted in partnership with university collaborators” (linked to the critical area of Collaboration) present an opportunity for university faculty, graduate students, and school-based practitioners to collaborate in addressing applications of evidence-based practice through journal study groups and action research projects.
Postsecondary institutions and programs are accredited by nationally recognized agencies such as the Western Association of School and Colleges (WASC) or the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). From the first author of this paper’s personal experience, one criterion that these agencies look for when they review postsecondary programs such as graduate programs in communication sciences and disorders (CSD) is evidence of measurable and objective student learning outcomes. The professional resource document the UOC developed is a tool that faculty can use to satisfy this need.
It is important to understand that the UOC is not asking school-based clinicians to take on more work or add to their job description. Rather, the committee sees this resource document as a tool academic faculty can use to best prepare graduate students in CSD programs to carry out the roles they will meet in school-based service.
The document also fulfills the need of academic programs to develop measurable and objective learning outcomes for graduate students. We hope that a newly graduated SLP will enter a school-based setting confident in his or her ability to demonstrate or execute the roles and responsibilities in the ASHA (2010) R and R position statement.
In the document, UOC members also try to address school-based SLP supervisors’ needs regarding student clinicians’ level of preparation before entering their practicum in school settings. The second author of this piece, along with six school-based SLP supervisors from different regions of the United States, conducted an informal web-based conversation about what graduate students need to know before entering their practicum in the schools. They conducted this conversation in order to determine what skills graduate students are expected to have before beginning a school-based internship. All six SLP supervisors had been practicing for 3–7 years, had each had at least two graduate student interns, and were currently practicing full-time in a school-based setting. They were all cooperating supervisors with their local universities. During the conversation, they revealed three important trends were revealed. First, it is crucial for graduate students to have a firm grasp of the IDEA laws and the accompanying paperwork. One SLP shared that she felt this was “the biggest part of our job”. As we show in the professional resource table (See Supplemental PDF), university faculty can help graduate students prepare mock evaluation reports, individualized education plans (IEPs), and clearly written goals. Second, although we do not expect that graduate students know every therapy technique or standardized test possible, all school-based SLP supervisors shared that they expect their graduate students to come prepared with several therapy tools ready to use and tests ready to administer. University faculty can foster this knowledge in lectures and in clinical situations (see Supplemental PDF). Many graduate-level courses focus mainly on theoretical foundations. Certainly, this information is necessary and is what sets SLPs apart from many other professionals. However, it is equally important to provide graduate students with examples of practical tools that they can use to address multiple speech-language goals (i.e., articulation, social language/ pragmatics, syntax, fluency, voice, written language, etc.). The professional resource table outlines how university faculty can help graduate clinicians accomplish this goal by developing lesson plans and activities that simultaneously target speech-language goals and fulfill state language arts requirements. Third, many school-based clinicians treat a portion of their caseloads in a group therapy setting. SLP supervisors reported that nearly all graduate students were not familiar or comfortable with treating more than one client at a time. Though the caseload issue will vary from state to state and district to district, group therapy seems to be the rule, not the exception (Katz, Maag, Fallon, Blenkarn, & Smith, 2010). University faculty can use the professional resource table to address this trend. For example, faculty can assign a project that requires graduate students to create classroom-based instruction lesson plans (addressing specific skills) and demonstrate as a formal course presentation. Graduate students also can create literacy-based lessons to be implemented in small groups in kindergarten classes as part of a preventative model.
Conclusion
Academic and clinical faculty in communication sciences and disorder programs have a formidable job in preparing students for service in the schools. Programs must adapt to the ever-changing nature of school practice and the evolving institution of education itself, and at the same time, address the ever-broadening scope of practice of speech-language pathology. This committee hopes that the professional resource document will serve the needs of academic and clinical faculty as they strive to prepare graduate students for successful and rewarding careers in schools.
References
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2010). Roles and Responsibilities of Speech-Language Pathologists in Schools [Position Statement]. Available from www.asha.org/policy
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2010). Roles and Responsibilities of Speech-Language Pathologists in Schools [Position Statement]. Available from www.asha.org/policy×
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2011). ASHA Practice Policies. [Practice Policy]. Available from http://www.asha.org/policy
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2011). ASHA Practice Policies. [Practice Policy]. Available from http://www.asha.org/policy×
Beck, A. R., & Dennis, M. (1997). Speech-language pathologists’ and teachers’ perceptions of classroom based interventions. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 28, 146–153. [Article]
Beck, A. R., & Dennis, M. (1997). Speech-language pathologists’ and teachers’ perceptions of classroom based interventions. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 28, 146–153. [Article] ×
Katz, L. A., Maag, A., Fallon, K. A., Blenkarn, K., & Smith, M. K. , (2010). What makes a caseload (un)manageable? School-based speech-language pathologists speak. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 41, 139–151. [Article] [PubMed]
Katz, L. A., Maag, A., Fallon, K. A., Blenkarn, K., & Smith, M. K. , (2010). What makes a caseload (un)manageable? School-based speech-language pathologists speak. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 41, 139–151. [Article] [PubMed]×
Means, J. (2009). Academic preparation for the school-based SLP: A national survey. Perspectives on School-Based Issues, 10, 96–100. [Article]
Means, J. (2009). Academic preparation for the school-based SLP: A national survey. Perspectives on School-Based Issues, 10, 96–100. [Article] ×
Roles and Responsibilities - UOC Document
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