Grad Students Get Head Start in School Experience A new program gives graduate students hands-on experience in public schools, aiding their training and the school system. Academic Edge
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Academic Edge  |   September 01, 2015
Grad Students Get Head Start in School Experience
Author Notes
  • Emily Ansty, MA, CCC-SLP, is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences at Indiana University and supervisor of the public school partnership program. eansty@indiana.edu
    Emily Ansty, MA, CCC-SLP, is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences at Indiana University and supervisor of the public school partnership program. eansty@indiana.edu×
  • Elizabeth Buck, MA, CCC-SLP, clinical lecturer at Indiana University, also contributed to this article.
    Elizabeth Buck, MA, CCC-SLP, clinical lecturer at Indiana University, also contributed to this article.×
Article Information
School-Based Settings / Academic Edge
Academic Edge   |   September 01, 2015
Grad Students Get Head Start in School Experience
The ASHA Leader, September 2015, Vol. 20, 32-33. doi:10.1044/leader.AE.20092015.32
The ASHA Leader, September 2015, Vol. 20, 32-33. doi:10.1044/leader.AE.20092015.32
Most—if not all—speech-language pathology training programs place second-year graduate students in public schools to work under the supervision of the schools’ licensed clinicians. At the Indiana University Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, our students also gain earlier experiences in the schools.
We piloted a partnership with the Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) in the 2013–2014 school year to address a key bottleneck in clinical training: a shortage of diverse onsite practicum experiences for students prior to their externships.
We wanted IU graduate students to have an opportunity to provide services to a racially, ethnically and socioeconomically diverse population. We approached IPS—an 80-square-mile urban school district with more than 30,000 students—with what we saw as a mutually beneficial plan: Place Indiana University clinical instructors in some public schools, where they would assume all speech-language administrative and service-delivery responsibilities—and, at the same time, provide onsite training to graduate student clinicians.
We started the program in a single elementary school with two clinical assistant professors (1.2 full-time equivalent) and 15 graduate students. After a successful pilot year, we expanded the program for 2014–2015 to three elementary schools—as well as to the IPS audiology center—allowing every graduate student to complete a semester at IPS.
Logistics
Here’s how it works:
  • IU clinical supervisors serve as the speech-language pathologists in three IPS elementary schools, providing services to students and fulfilling related administrative tasks.

  • Graduate students spend one day per week at their designated IPS school for a single semester. Each site hosts two students three days each week, for a total of six graduate students per school.

  • Graduate students take on a small caseload that includes a variety of disorders under the onsite training and guidance of the clinical supervisors at the schools.

  • IU pays the clinical supervisors (salary plus fringe benefits). However, IPS contracts with the university and reimburses IU for the three employees.

What does the program look like? The clinical faculty in the public schools manage and provide services to the children in the school, but also instruct and supervise the graduate students. The supervisors might be greeting young students as they come into school in the morning; helping graduate students prepare for their first session with a classroom of preschool students who have speech and language goals; or supervising graduate students who are providing a push-in lesson on phonological awareness to a kindergarten class.
Mutual benefits
Because of the benefits it brings to both institutions, the program has received strong support from university and public school leaders. “The partnership has truly been a win-win situation,” says Larry Humes, Indiana University’s speech and hearing sciences chair. “The IU graduate students get early and extensive exposure to delivery of services in a diverse school setting. The children at IPS get top-quality service provision at lower student-clinician ratios than would be possible otherwise.”

“The partnership has truly been a win-win situation. The Indiana University graduate students get early and extensive exposure to delivery of services in a diverse school setting. The public school children get top-quality service provision at lower student-clinician ratios than would be possible otherwise.”

Judy Zimmerman, IPS speech and hearing supervisor, also notes the mutual benefit of the partnership. She said she enjoys having university faculty on the IPS team and is pleased that IPS students are receiving “current and innovative therapeutic intervention from young and energetic clinicians.”
To date, more than 50 graduate students have participated in the program. Exit surveys confirm the benefits. “I became more flexible with treatment designs in order to accommodate children with many different disorders and goals,” one student commented.
Another student said that her subsequent externship adviser “has never had a student jump into therapy as quickly as I did” and noted that “I was confident and competent from the beginning—not intimidated as previous students had been.”
Points to consider
We learned some key lessons in establishing this partnership. Other graduate programs considering this arrangement may want to:
  • Ensure that the partnering school district firmly believes in and supports the training of future clinicians.

  • Offer a course and/or collaborate regularly with department professors to ensure the graduate students are receiving evidence-based intervention resources they can use at the school sites.

  • Provide in-service sessions for the school district’s SLPs on recent research from the university. This free continuing education helps to build the relationship between the school district’s speech department and the university.

  • Plan weekly meetings with the graduate students on campus to discuss their school-based experience, including assessment results, interventions, progress monitoring and other facets of school-based service delivery.

We believe this partnership helps prepare our students for future externships and careers. In the course of the three-month semester, they gain confidence and many of the tools they need to help them succeed in their future careers.
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September 2015
Volume 20, Issue 9