Department of Communication
Sciences and Disorders
West Chester University
Dr. Cheryl D. Gunter, Chair
201 Carter Drive, Suite 400
West Chester, PA 19383
The mission of the SoT Lab is consistent with West Chester University’s (WCU) and the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) Strategic Plan to promote academics through student learning and teaching excellence. As teacher-scholars, we have systematically assessed, targeted, and documented critical thinking (CT) abilities, application of evidence-based practice (EBP), and professional writing (PW) skills of CSD students since 2008 with the goal of enhancing the students’ professional contributions to the field of speech-language pathology (SLP) and audiology. The following will describe our past work with plans for the future.
Our initial motivation for this work came from evaluating the outcomes of graduate level comprehensive examinations. Three of the co-investigators found that graduate students demonstrated deficiencies in three areas; CT, application of EBP, and PW. Our first study investigated the effectiveness of teaching modules designed to enhance the use of CT, EBP, and PW skills by CSD graduate students (Grillo, Koenig, Gunter, & Kim, accepted in Communication Disorders Quarterly). Three single-session teaching modules were developed to highlight key features of CT, EBP, and PW. Participants were presented with one module per week during the first month of their two-year graduate program. Each participant’s performance was assessed four times by analyzing his or her written responses to clinical scenarios during the first fall semester and the last spring semester of the program. Results demonstrated that the EBP teaching module was effective in improving the participants’ application of EBP principles. The CT and PW teaching modules were not as effective suggesting that instruction in these areas requires more than a single-session teaching module.
Another way to address limitations in CT, EBP, and PW is to support development across all three areas at the undergraduate level, so that students arrive in graduate school with more mature skills. The second and third studies have focused on PW. Our goal, consistent with a model proposed by Dr. Plante (2010) at the University of Arizona, is to develop a comprehensive, department-wide program to enhance the writing skills of undergraduate CSD majors by targeting three kinds of skills: (1) comprehension of discipline-specific content as a basis for writing, (2) organization of information at the macrostructure level; and (3) reduction of technical errors in microstructure. It is possible that a program such as this could benefit our students at WCU; however, evidence regarding the baseline writing profiles of WCU students must be obtained before an intervention can be considered. The second and third studies have provided such baseline data. The second study summarized error patterns in macrostructure, microstructure, and APA style found in the written expository texts produced by undergraduate students in the early stages of a CSD program. The third study expanded upon the second study by correlating PW error patterns in written expository texts produced by undergraduate students, linguistic features (e.g., mean length of T-Units, clause density, as assessed by SALT), and other student variables (i.e., GPA, grades in 100-level and 200-level writing courses, and cumulative semester hours).
Currently, we are designing a fourth study that will investigate correlations between PW error patterns, linguistic features, student variables, and CT skills of undergraduate students. Ultimately, our goal is to develop and to assess the effectiveness of discipline-specific teaching modules for enhancing CT, application of EBP, and PW for academic and clinical courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.