Teaching speech pathology students – never enough time!

Melbourne University

Latrobe University



Part of my job role is to lecture speech pathology students about multi-modal communication. I share this role with Hilary Johnson. We have the position of adjunct lecturers at both Melbourne University and Latrobe University.

The School of Human Communication Sciences at Latrobe University uses a Problem Based Learning (PBL) approach to teaching. Latrobe offers an under-graduate program in speech pathology but also has an option for a master’s entry level. Students’ learning involves problem-based scenarios that cover assessment and intervention issues. There are a series of case studies that highlight key aspects of multi-modal communication. For instance, one scenario is about a young child with cerebral palsy who uses a PODD communication book and needs to update her access to technology. Another is about a woman with motor neurone disease who is realising the need to use another form of communication to compensate for her deteriorating speech. There is a case study about a young adult transitioning from school to adult services. And there is also a seminar topic on the assessment of severe intellectual disability and a young man with Down Syndrome.

Melbourne University offers a Masters in Speech Pathology and students enter with an undergraduate degree often in a related area. Teaching at Melbourne has a more traditional lecture format. Students receive a series of lectures in multi-modal communication based on Dowdens’ model of communication. This includes information on emergent communicators – where their level of communication ability has not yet been determined; context- dependent communicators – reliant on communication partners for successful interactions and independent communicators – where speed of communication may be the biggest barrier.

Both universities provide skills classes in aided and unaided communication. Students get the opportunity to learn Key Word Sign and to get a “hands on” session with electronic and non-electronic communication devices.

We aim to give students a taste of multi-modal communication. We want them to understand that AAC (Alternative and Augmentative Communication) is a viable option and not a last resort for people who have complex communication needs. There is never enough time to cover all that a new speech pathologist needs to know. But hopefully, the students see the important role speech pathologists have in the area of complex communication needs and that if nothing else, they know where to find and who to ask information.

By Karen Bloomberg.

1 thought on “Teaching speech pathology students – never enough time!

  1. hilary johnson


    It is quite a challenge, whether it is that we need more time to teach – or whether we need to approach it differently and have shorter interactive sessions. Certainly the aspect the students remember best are the hands on skill classes- this “makes sense” of it for them. Meeting people who use AAC is also fundamental . What is the best way to teach speech pathology students?

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