Fostering a Community of Scholars in a Graduate Program Accredited graduate programs in communication sciences and disorders grapple with the challenges of teaching the required research methods course without immunizing their students to the excitement, personal and professional gratification, and relevance of research in their clinical activities. We, too, struggle with this challenge, along with the challenge of faculty ... Academic Edge
Free
Academic Edge  |   March 01, 2003
Fostering a Community of Scholars in a Graduate Program
Author Notes
  • A. Lynn Williams, is a professor in the department of communicative disorders at East Tennessee State University. She teaches and conducts research in the area of clinical phonology. Her primary area of research has focused on treatment efficacy and models of phonological assessment and intervention. Contact her by e-mail at williamL@mail.etsu.edu.
    A. Lynn Williams, is a professor in the department of communicative disorders at East Tennessee State University. She teaches and conducts research in the area of clinical phonology. Her primary area of research has focused on treatment efficacy and models of phonological assessment and intervention. Contact her by e-mail at williamL@mail.etsu.edu.×
  • Marc Fagelson, is an associate professor at East Tennessee State University in the department of communicative disorders and the director of the James H. Quillen Mountain Home VA Medical Center Tinnitus Clinic. He teaches and conducts research in the areas of clinical audiology, psychoacoustics, and tinnitus retraining. Contact him by e-mail at fagelson@mail.etsu.edu.
    Marc Fagelson, is an associate professor at East Tennessee State University in the department of communicative disorders and the director of the James H. Quillen Mountain Home VA Medical Center Tinnitus Clinic. He teaches and conducts research in the areas of clinical audiology, psychoacoustics, and tinnitus retraining. Contact him by e-mail at fagelson@mail.etsu.edu.×
Article Information
Professional Issues & Training / Academic Edge
Academic Edge   |   March 01, 2003
Fostering a Community of Scholars in a Graduate Program
The ASHA Leader, March 2003, Vol. 8, 4-14. doi:10.1044/leader.AE.08042003.4
The ASHA Leader, March 2003, Vol. 8, 4-14. doi:10.1044/leader.AE.08042003.4
Accredited graduate programs in communication sciences and disorders grapple with the challenges of teaching the required research methods course without immunizing their students to the excitement, personal and professional gratification, and relevance of research in their clinical activities. We, too, struggle with this challenge, along with the challenge of faculty time investment that is frequently involved in teaching a research methodology course.
Fortunately, there are others, most notably Rosenthal (see http://class.csueastbay.edu/commsci/ASHAStudRes.htm), who provided an impetus to our own design and implementation of the research methods course in the department of communicative disorders at East Tennessee State University. Rosenthal described a graduate research course in which students designed and executed a research project within an 11-week quarter. At the completion of the course, the top student projects were selected for publication in a departmental student research journal and submitted to the California State University Student Research Competition.
Course Goals and Philosophy
Ours is a graduate-only program offering a master’s degree in speech-language pathology and, starting this fall, the AuD. The research course is integrated into the academic and clinical curriculum, rather than being offered as an “add-on” that students must take to meet ASHA requirements.
This course is considered a foundation supporting students’ critical analysis of research that is required in other courses as well in their clinical practica. Students are thus required to take the research course within the first nine units of graduate study or within their first semester. Historically, the research course was taught in two sections—one for speech-language pathology and one for audiology students. Recently, these two sections were folded together into one taught by a single faculty member.
The course has two broad objectives: the creation of critical consumers of research and of generators of research. The first objective is relatively standard for a graduate course in research methods. According to Wambaugh and Bain (“Make Research Methods an Integral Part of Your Clinical Practice,” The ASHA Leader, Nov. 19, 2002), the first objective incorporates two components: students’ ability to use research findings in designing intervention programs, as well as to use the tools of research methodology in evaluating clinical effectiveness and making clinical decisions regarding intervention.
Initially, students learn to critically evaluate the literature and determine cautions in interpreting it, applications for their clients, and how the procedures might be modified to better serve their clients. Students then learn to use the scientific method to study a clinical problem objectively, collect data through observation or experiment, and draw conclusions based on the analysis of the collected data, such as the effectiveness of intervention or when to terminate intervention. Although different exercises were used in meeting this objective, the information was integrated when students participated in journal clubs as presenters and peers.
It is the second objective, to become a generator of research, that makes the research course more challenging—and interesting—for the instructor and students. Students learn more about research by actively conducting it rather than by passively reading about it. Through the design, execution, analysis, and write-up of experimental research, students also become better consumers of research. The second objective involved a cumulative, semester-long (15-week) research project in which students worked in triads to conduct an original experimental research study. Collectively, the two objectives offered students opportunities to learn new concepts and to apply these concepts in authentic learning activities.
Model of Instruction
In designing a research course that incorporated both of these objectives, we used information from educational design and learning theory. We implemented a model that brought researchers and practitioners together and retuned what each group knew about communicative disorders, while incorporating different perspectives and experiences. This framework was interdisciplinary and fostered a professional community, thereby providing rich and flexible environments for student learning.
The educational design for the research course was coordinated with learning theory and information from cognitive science that characterized the learner as more than a passive receiver of knowledge. The student actively constructed knowledge within a context of prior information, skills, and reflection. This view of learners emphasized the active, reflective, and social nature of learning.
This shift in the way learners were viewed also affected the role of the teacher. The instructor was less a deliverer of instruction and more of a cognitive coach, working across knowledge domains, as well as within them. In essence, the instructor served as a guide to areas that extended beyond their own expertise.
These changes in the view of the learner and teacher also affected the organizational contexts for learning. The classroom became a community of learners and teachers who shared and learned new information. This community operated within a larger educational system that was based on shared accountability rather than a single individual having sole responsibility for the course and the learning.
Our approach used project-based learning (PBL), described by McDonald (1996, Redesigning school, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass) and Olson (1993, Feb. 17, Progressive-era concept now breaks mold: NASDC schools explore “project learning,” Education Week, pp. 6–7). This approach is based on learning activities that actively involve students in the design, execution, and analysis of the project. PBL fosters cooperative learning communities with assignments that have several benefits, including:
  • engaging students as active participants, giving them a greater sense of responsibility over their learning process

  • providing a sense of authenticity in which there is a greater connection to real-world experience through the design and execution of a research project

  • facilitating personal connections for students as they develop a sense of ownership for what they have designed, developed, and learned

  • promoting a sense of audience by encouraging students to think beyond the classroom and consider how others will react and use the information that they have discovered

Evolution of the Research Course
To move from the traditional view of students as receivers of knowledge and teachers as deliverers of that knowledge to a cooperative learning community, we considered several factors for which we revised the traditional approach.
Student research projects encompassed a broad spectrum of audiology and speech-language pathology topic areas, adult and pediatric populations, and applied and basic research. The projects were evaluated twice, initially as they provided a partial fulfillment of the course’s grade requirement, and a second time to determine whether the group would receive departmental support to develop their project into a poster for subsequent presentation at the university’s Student Research Forum.
The department research committee reviewed all student research projects in January of the following semester. The top projects were selected, and students worked with faculty mentors to submit proposals to the university Annual Student Research Competition and to state and national conventions. Following the first year of the revised course format, four student-faculty posters were presented at the 2002 ASHA Convention and one student project won second place in the university Student Research Forum. The evaluation process and its subsequent awarding of funds for presentation highlighted the department’s prioritizing of both student research and student contributions to faculty research.
A Community of Scholarship
When the research class links faculty, clinicians, and students in a process of discovery, it serves as a catalyst to the development of a community of scholarship. Two course projects (journal clubs and research project) established this link and addressed the two major goals of the course (i.e., producing consumers and generators of research). In the journal clubs, student groups presented an article relevant to their research project, and faculty used the presentation to initiate discussion regarding research design, methods, and data analysis.
Student research projects brought together faculty from in and outside the department. The initial collaboration involved faculty members from speech-language pathology and audiology. This collaboration set the stage for discussing and designing the course objectives and assignments. When discussing the research class structure and instructor role, we concluded that the modified course objectives would require contributions from more than one faculty member. This modification provided the opportunity to include all faculty members (academic and clinical) in the department, as well as doctoral-level professionals who received full-time (non-tenure-track) appointments from a neighboring Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center (VAMC), a biostatistician from the medical school, and the university Institutional Review Board compliance manager.
The scope of research opportunities increased with the addition of these faculty advisors, and their inclusion allowed students to gravitate toward areas of inquiry that matched personal interests rather than receiving a topic area as an assignment. The projects typically were based upon questions related to clinical practice that were gleaned as part of a rotation completed by group members. Ultimately, the course philosophies were achieved when students collaborated as research partners with each other and with faculty who shared their interest in a particular topic.
Expanding Opportunities for Collaboration
Student research projects provided opportunities for both student- and junior-senior-faculty collaboration. Junior faculty had the opportunity to get student assistance on a research project, as well as input from the faculty member teaching the class and the biostatistician. Additionally, mentoring of junior faculty followed from interaction on the research committee that evaluated the projects after the course. The evaluation process also allowed junior and senior faculty to use student projects as illustrations of research goals and ways in which faculty can support student research. These evaluations provided the context for discussions of scholarship and the dissemination of research findings.
Mentoring opportunities were also available as students and junior faculty completed additional work on the projects that were selected for the student research competition and presentation to state and national conventions. Mentors were available from within the discipline, both within the department and from the doctoral-level audiologists at the VAMC, as well as from the medical school biostatistician.
Integration of Resources
We viewed the research class project as an opportunity to increase the stake of all students and contributing faculty in the research class. It also reinforced the importance of collaboration and affiliation with clinic supervisors and remote faculty. In addition to the assignment, many students were funded for their research through assistantships with faculty both on campus and at the VAMC. In one case, a project was spun off from funded faculty research and a student in the group used the data to apply —successfully—for a new investigator award. The possibility that the projects would have life beyond the end of the semester increased the stake of faculty in the research class.
When determining whether to depend upon faculty from other sites for research direction, it was important to consider a variety of pros and cons. Although orchestrating the projects was difficult at times, the faculty committed to the research class performed ombudsman-like duties and facilitated appropriate interactions between all involved. On the positive side, the affiliations allowed students access to a variety of research activities other than those of their primary instructor. Faculty, on campus and at off-campus sites, received the benefits of research assistants who were determined to finish the project.
In our situation, the research class relied upon affiliations that were developed over years with neighboring facilities. All faculty, including clinical faculty, were committed to the development of student research.
Accreditation
Documentation of graduate student research opportunities and the outcome of such experiences are required at several levels of the academic accreditation process. The research component of programs in the communication disorders area is addressed as a required competency by ASHA in the new knowledge and skills acquisition guidelines. Regional accreditation standards and university mission statements impose additional requirements related to student research goals and opportunities. The course, as presently structured, is consistent with the spirit of these competency and accreditation requirements.
An additional benefit of the course’s structure is its vital component within the doctoral research sequence. In our planning of an AuD research sequence, the students will follow up the group assignment by preparing a project while working individually. This allows the research course to serve the dual purpose of addressing competencies required by master’s students, as well as by doctoral students in a preparatory course for the advanced, individual project required in the audiology program.
Finally, we view the shift to a community of scholars for the research methods class to have numerous benefits for students, as well as for faculty. Successful implementation of the class involves the “3 Cs”: commitment to the idea that the class can facilitate student research, collaboration with partners across disciplines to improve the quality and quantity of opportunities, and completion of the projects within a semester.
Some Student Research Projects

Audiology

  • Word recognition of digit triplets in multitalker babble

  • Prevalence of risk factors for hearing loss in the intensive care nursery population

  • Prevalence of tinnitus in normal-hearing individuals

  • Directional vs. omnidirectional microphones and hearing aid benefit

  • The effect of amplified music on pure-tone thresholds and oto-acoustic emission amplitude

Speech-Language Pathology

  • Direct vs. mediated service delivery models to children with speech-language impairments

  • Examination of Optional Infinitive Theory

  • Correlation of PCC and GFTA scores with intelligibility ratings on the SALT for typically developing children and children with cleft/lip palate

  • The effects of response elaboration training on a Wernicke’s aphasic patient

  • Prediction of treatment outcomes from consistent vs. variable substitution patterns

Moving From the Traditional Approach
  • Factors, Traditional Approach, Revised Approach
  • Assignment, • Ventry & Schiavetti (currently Schiavetti & Metz) text used as basis for teaching research design and methodology • Tests (objective and essay) given to assess students’ understanding of research design and methodology, • Schiavetti & Metz text still used as basis for concepts in research design and methodology • Series of weekly exercises were used to provide experience with developing answerable questions, identifying variables and control, choosing appropriate designs to answer specific questions, etc. • Five-week journal clubs
  • Research Project, • Prepare partial research project (literature review and proposed methods sections), • Semester-long research project (design, execution, analysis, write-up) • Completion of Informed Consent Document was also required • Research could be original or a spin-off from faculty research
  • Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval, • not required, • IRB approval was required • The approval process was coupled with the university’s compliance requirements of all researchers: • A three-hour compliance workshop is now a part of the research class and covers students for thesis as well. The university IRB compliance manager taught the workshop during class time. • Students are compliance-certified by the end of their first semester in the graduate program, and certification is renewable for students who continue on for doctorates or contribute to other research projects.
  • Student Responsibilities, • Students worked individually on assignments and tests, • Students worked in triads on all exercises, journal clubs, research project
0 Comments
Submit a Comment
Submit A Comment
Name
Comment Title
Comment


This feature is available to Subscribers Only
Sign In or Create an Account ×
FROM THIS ISSUE
March 2003
Volume 8, Issue 4