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Speech, Language and Hearing: Undergraduate Programs


The undergraduate program in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences is designed to provide students with a strong broad-based Bachelor of Science degree that builds upon the general education curriculum in English composition, the biological and physical sciences, mathematics, and social and behavioral sciences. Coursework within the two-year major provides an understanding of the biological, acoustic, psychological, developmental, linguistic, and cultural foundations of human communication processes. This includes normal aspects of speech production and perception, language processing, hearing, swallowing, and the cognitive and social aspects of communication. The curriculum also provides a strong background regarding the nature of communication disorders, and the basic principles of treatment. The undergraduate degree is preparatory for graduate study in speech-language pathology, audiology, and research degrees in speech, language, and hearing sciences. However, the undergraduate major is designed to foster critical thinking, writing skills, and problem-solving abilities in a broad sense, so the education has wide application that is not limited to pre-professional training

Expected Learning Outcomes: 

Undergraduate Student Learning Outcomes

The training mission of the SLHS undergraduate program is to provide academic and pre-clinical education to students in speech, language, and hearing sciences that is sufficient to master foundational knowledge and skills necessary for advanced learning at the graduate level. The learning outcomes relate to standards set by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) that are to be fully achieved at the graduate level. By the completion of the program, undergraduate students are expected to:

  1. Demonstrate understanding of basic principles of biological and physical sciences, mathematics and the social and behavioral sciences. (ASHA Standard III A)
  2. Demonstrate knowledge of basic human communication and swallowing processes, including their biological, neurological, acoustic, psychological, developmental, and linguistic and cultural bases. (ASHA Standard III B)
  3. Demonstrate knowledge of the nature of speech, language, hearing, and communication disorders and differences and swallowing disorders, including the etiologies, characteristics, anatomical/physiological, acoustic, psychological, developmental, and linguistic and cultural correlates. (ASHA Standards III C)
  4. Demonstrate basic understanding of principles of assessment and intervention over the range of communication disorders specified in the current scope of professional practice for audiology and speech-language pathology. (ASHA Standard III D)
  5. Demonstrate adequate writing skills for scientific and clinical report writing. (Standard IV B)
Assessment Activities: 

Assessment Activities

The student learning outcomes enumerated above are assessed within the associated courses in which the content and skills are taught. Outcome data are available from pre-post tests (10-point multiple choice) in the following classes:

  • SLHS 207 Survey of Human Communication and Its Disorders: This introductory course is taken by pre-majors, majors, and non-majors. It provides an assessment of acquisition of new knowledge in a diverse cohort of students
  • SLHS 261 Anatomy and Physiology of the Speech Mechanism
  • SLHS 473/477  Communication Disorders I and II: This foundational two-course sequence for majors covers a wide range of communication disorders. These courses build upon other foundational courses in SLHS.
  • SLHS 471 Speech Sound Disorders: This speech disorders course requires more in-depth knowledge of communication disorders than preceding courses and should be representative of more advanced knowledge in the major.

Assessment Findings

Figure 1. shows the performance on the 10-point multiple choice quizzes taken at the beginning and end of the four courses described in the previous section (SLHS 207, 471, 473, and 477). A consistent pattern of performance is demonstrated whereby the average performance on the pre-test averages about 40% and improves to 80% after the course. The information sampled by these quizzes relates specifically to the learning objectives. The primary goal is for students to achieve the 80% or better mastery level, but it is interesting to note that it appears that the level of mastery for SLHS 471 and 473 improved over the four years that were sampled in the exact same manner.

FIGURE 1. Assessment Findings for Undergraduate Learning Outcomes. Scores on 10-point multiple-choice test taken on the first day of class (pre) and at the end of the course (post) for courses SLHS 207, 471, 473, and 477.

In order to examine outcomes with regard to wriing skills, writing skills are sampled from writing samples graded using a standard rubric from SLHS 362 Neurobiology of Communication

  • SLHS 362 is typically the first of three writing emphasis courses taken by majors in SLHS, and thus includes considerable attention to scientific writing form. Didactic instruction is provided regarding scientific writing and a strict scoring rubric is implemented.
  • Learning outcomes for writing skills have been sampled in a consistent manner for the past 3 years (2010-2012) in SLHS 362 (Neurobiology of Communication).  In this class, students write two papers on a scientific topic related to the course content and are provided with writing guidelines and a standard scoring rubric. Students are allowed to submit a re-written paper following feedback from the first essay. As noted inFIGURE 2., the first papers are far from meeting the strict criteria for well-written papers. Students show marked improvement, both in their response to editorial input used to re-write the papers (post) and in the writing of the second paper compared to the first.  Student learning in the area of writing continues in the two other writing-emphasis courses, so that they should have the tools for graduate school, or other life pursuits that involve analytical writing skills.

FIGURE 2. Changes in writing scores over the course of the semester in undergraduate writing emphasis course (SLHS 362). Light bars indicate first draft by students (Pre); dark bars indicate papers re-written after feedback (Post). Average class size = 60 students. Error bars = SEM.

Changes in Response to Outcomes

With regard to objective measurement of learning outcomes in SLHS, the pre-post test scores have been confirmatory of our impression from other indicators that students clearly advance their knowledge in the targeted areas.  This information combined with the strong course evaluations indicate overall success in our teaching mission. That said, we continue to review, evaluate, and modify our curriculum in order to achieve the best possible educational sequence for our students.

With regard to writing skills, the annual review of student writing performance in our three writing emphasis classes (SLHS 340, 362, 430) has led to considerable change over time in an effort to improve student outcomes. These changes include:

  • increased consistency in the rubrics used to evaluate writing in the writing emphasis courses and sharing of that rubric with all faculty
  • increased used of student preceptors in the writing emphasis courses in order to increase the feedback to students and allow for re-writing of papers in SLHS 362 in response to feedback. (Note that preceptors only do the initial review and feedback on papers, and all grading is done by the responsible faculty member).
  • increased structure of preceptor training with supervising faculty to maximize scoring reliability.
  • Improvements to the courses were based on informal feedback from students, formal course evaluations, as well as peer critiques and discussions.
  •  Three courses related to hearing (acoustics, hearing science, and audiology) were sequenced and topics reorganized to allow students to build knowledge over three consecutive semesters.  This sequencing has improved student performance in the upper division course in Principles in Audiology (SLHS 483R/L).  This improvement in the curriculum is due to an increase in faculty numbers allowing us to offer lower division courses both fall and spring semesters. 
  • Laboratory experiences for three courses (SLHS 261, 380, and 483L) have been restructured to add hands-on laboratory demonstrations designed to illuminate difficulty concepts in these courses.  The addition of a cadaver to the laboratory for SLHS 261 has allowed for the opportunity to see anatomical structures in situ, thereby improving students’ recognition of the structures and allowing for application to clinical disorders presented in later courses.  Labs in Hearing Science (SLHS 380) and Principles of Audiology (483L) have been reworked to include hands-on demonstration of auditory/acoustic phenomena.   The personal experience with these phenomena improves retention and transfer of knowledge when built on during a subsequent course.  The laboratory components of these courses are unique compared to peer institutions that offer few undergraduate laboratory experiences.
  • We have also been able to offer SLHS 367, Speech Science, again, a course that had not been taught as a full course for several years due to insufficient faculty. The availability of this course has greatly improved our ability to prepare students for the elective course in Speech Sound Disorders (SLHS 471).   Student performance in SLHS 471 has improved as a direct result of training in clinical phonetics and this has allowed the instructor to cover topics in more depth and provide a strong clinical foundation for future clinical work.
  • The Department has also added a registration for teaching preceptors at the undergraduate level (SLHS 491).  This registration allows us to offer additional opportunities for top students to work with their peers as a mentor and solidify their knowledge in an area. 
  • The Department has added a number of courses (1 lower division, 2 upper division), which improves breadth of students’ knowledge in the field.  These include SLHS 255 Hearing, Health, and Society (GEN ED), SLHS 435 focusing on Multicultural and Multilingual Populations, SLHS 430 Cognitive Neuroscience of Language. 
  • Two upper division undergraduate courses covering communication disorders (SLHS 477 and 473) were reworked by the faculty to approach communication disorders using a lifespan approach (consistent with the prevailing views of the field), avoiding duplicate presentation of material, and increasing the number of different disorders covered.  The focus has also expanded to include evidence-based practice as a pillar of the field.
Updated date: Mon, 07/02/2018 - 17:16