Credit points


Campus offering

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SPHY101 Introduction to Speech Pathology Practice AND SPHY103 Linguistics and Phonetics for Speech Pathology

Teaching organisation

150 hours of focused learning.

Unit rationale, description and aim

Understanding typical communication and swallowing development and functions across the lifespan is core foundational knowledge for a speech pathologist. Accordingly, in this unit students will learn about  typical development and change across the lifespan, with particular emphasis on communication and swallowing development.

Students will be introduced to theories and frameworks that inform our understanding of development and will apply these to the description and analysis of skills in different life stages. Students will consider  the relationship between developmental domains, and how they are influenced by a range of factors, including socio-cultural contexts.

Additionally, this unit contains a learning outcome from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Curriculum Framework (HCF, 2014) specifically addressing the HCF cultural capability- Social Determinants.

The unit aims to provide students with foundational knowledge of typical development and skills that they will use to apply to clinical populations in future units in the Bachelor of Speech Pathology.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Explain theories and frameworks underpinning acquisition and typical development of communication and swallowing (GA5)

LO2 - Describe key stages of communication and swallowing development and the relationship between developmental domains across the lifespan (GA5)

LO3 - Explain how biological, anatomical, linguistic-cultural and psychosocial factors contribute to communication and mealtime activities (e.g., feeding and swallowing), and to differences between individuals in these activities across the lifespan (GA1, GA5, GA8, GA9)

LO4 - HCF 16.1* Discuss the concept of social determinants and the impacts on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health (GA1, GA5, GA8)


Graduate attributes

GA1 - Demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics will include:

  • Application of the International Classification of Functioning (ICF) to communication and swallowing
  • Social determinants of health


Background to communication

  • Communication as a cultural phenomenon
  • The relationship between speech, language and communication
  • The components of language: form (syntax, morphology, phonology), content (semantics), and use (pragmatics)


Theories of development

Development and change in communication, swallowing and other domains (cognition, attention, memory, motor, sensory, social-emotional, play/leisure) across the lifespan, including impact on activity and participation

  • Early development (0-2 years)
  • Early childhood (3-5 years)
  • Primary school age (6-12 years)
  • Adolescence (12-18 years)
  • Adulthood (18+ years)
  • Aging (65+ years)

Factors that influence development/health/wellbeing

  • Personal factors (e.g., biology, anatomy, culture, multiculturalism/bilingualism)
  • Contextual factors (e.g., physical environment; services, systems, policies; attitudes, relationships)
  • Knowings of First Peoples of Australia


 Community Engagement

  • Respect for human dignity
  • Framework for critical reflection on:
  • professional and ethical behaviour that acknowledges the dignity, culture, values, beliefs and rights of people being supported by community organisations 
  • the values underpinning the relationships, roles and functions of staff and clients within a community organisation/s
  • the degree of transformation that students experience via community engagement experiences

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit involves 150 hours of learning using the multi-mode study mode. Lectures will be face to face and/or online whilst the majority of tutorials will be face-to-face and interactive. Tutorials will be largely face-to-face as ACU speech pathology graduates will be communication experts, so it is important that students have the opportunity to interact face-to-face in tutorials and develop negotiation, team work, and oral communication skills.

Tutorials will involve interactive small group work with a focus on making connections between theory and practice.

Learning activities within tutorials will be constructively aligned with the assessment tasks, in that students will have the opportunity to practise the skills required for the assessment tasks using parallel cases in tutorials.

Community Engagement. All students at ACU are required to understand the University’s mission, values, and principles. In SPHY100, students will complete 20 hours of Community Engagement. This will enable students to interact with individuals, families and community groups and consider the personal/contextual factors that influence their life experiences (including participation in communication and mealtime activities), and how both impact their development/health/wellbeing.

Assessment strategy and rationale

This unit requires students to (a) demonstrate their understanding of the content, (b) demonstrate their technical skills, and (c) show emerging skills in clinical reasoning.

Assessment 1 is an individual task which will involve students collecting observational data on one or more people in their natural environment early in the semester. These observations will form the basis of tutorial discussions in a selected number of tutorials. This task is important for three reasons. Firstly, it provides students with an opportunity to practice their observation skills in an authentic scenario. Secondly, the student’s written observations will support the tutorial learning activities and increase their authenticity, as they are real life examples to help consolidate the student's learning. Thirdly, there is a need for students to practice their observation skills and interact with people across the lifespan in preparation for professional practice placements in subsequent years.

Assessment 2 is an individual task which requires students to describe the communication and development of two typically developing individuals of different age groups, to compare the skills and discuss the changes that have occurred across the life stages.

Assessment 3 is an individual exam which requires students to demonstrate their understanding of all the learning outcomes. This assessment will be composed of multiple choice and/or short answer questions.  

Community Engagement (CE) Hurdle: Students will give a presentation to their peers (hurdle), in which they describe their CE experience and reflect on their growth in understanding the links between participation in life activities (including communication and mealtimes), personal/contextual factors, and development/ health/wellbeing (i.e., human flourishing). The presentation is a hurdle task and students must pass the presentation to pass the unit. Students will get a second opportunity to complete the presentation at a time set by the teaching staff, if they fail this assessment on their first attempt.  

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment 1: Environmental Observational

This task introduces students to the importance of collecting and utilising observational data for assessment purposes.



CBOS Alignment


1.1; 2.1; 2.4


1.1; 2.2-2.3; 3.2-3.3; 4.1-4.3


Assessment 2: Comparative analysis of communication

This task requires students to undertake a comparative analysis of the communication and development skills of two typically developing individuals of different age groups.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, CBOS Alignment


1.1-1.2; 2.1-2.2; 2.4


1.1-1.2; 2.2; 3.2-3.3; 4.1; 4.4

GA1, GA5, GA8, GA9

Assessment 3: Exam

Students demonstrate factual and applied knowledge of typical communication and development across the lifespan.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4,

CBOS Alignment


1.1-1.2; 2.1


1.1-1.2; 2.2; 3.2-3.3; 4.1

GA1, GA5, GA8, GA9

Community engagement experience (20 hours) and presentation.  



CBOS Alignment



GA1, GA5, GA9

In order to successfully complete and pass this unit, you are required to:  

  • pass the Hurdle Assessment Task  
  • complete and submit all assessments and obtain an aggregate mark of 50% or greater. 

Representative texts and references

Garvis, S., Phillipson, S., Clarke, S. Harrison, L., McCormack, J., & Pendergast, D. (2018). Child Development and Learning. Oxford University Press.

McLeod, S. & McCormack, J. (Eds.) (2015). Introduction to speech, language and literacy. Oxford University Press.

Nippold, M. A. (2016). Later language development: School-age children, adolescents, and young adults. (3rd ed.). Pro-Ed.

Owens, R. E. (2020). Language development: An introduction. (8th ed.). Pearson Education.

Sharma, A. & Cockerill, H. & Sanctuary, L. (2022). Mary Sheridan's from birth to Five years: Children's developmental progress (5th ed.). Taylor and Francis.

Thornton, R., & Light, L. L. (2006). Language comprehension and production in normal aging. In J. E. Birren & K. W. Schaie (Eds.) Handbook of the psychology of aging (6th ed., pp. 261-287). Elsevier.

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