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

Unit rationale, description and aim

Speech pathologists engage in practice with individuals, families and communities to address communication and swallowing concerns and promote human flourishing. This unit provides students with foundational knowledge and skills for ethical, evidence-based and empathetic speech pathology practice. The unit will cover communication for professional purposes; clinical reasoning, including models of evidence based practice; assessment and measurement, including purpose and types of assessment, statistics and psychometric properties used in speech pathology measurement; and elements of intervention such as principles of learning in practice. Students will have the opportunity to apply knowledge and skills at an early novice level, which will provide a foundation to be further consolidated and expanded upon in future speech pathology practice units.

This unit will provide students with the opportunity to apply knowledge and skills in order to demonstrate novice level competency in clinical reasoning, assessment and elements of intervention. The unit will provide a foundation to be further consolidated and expanded upon in the second year unit, ALHT211 Research and Evidence Informed Practice in Allied Health, and will provide a scaffold for future learning across all professional practice units. The overall aim of this unit is to provide students with an introduction to the knowledge, skills and attributes required for professional practice in 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 - Describe and undertake elements of communication assessment, analysis and intervention at a novice level (GA5, GA9, GA10)

LO2 - Apply novice level knowledge of statistics and psychometric properties of assessment to measurement in Speech Pathology practice (GA4, GA5)

LO3 - Describe and appraise different forms of evidence (E3BP) and different methods for gathering information to develop clinical rationales at a novice level. (GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9)

LO4 - Utilise novice level written and spoken communication skills for Speech Pathology professional practice activities (GA5, GA9)

Graduate attributes

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

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 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


Topics will include:

Introduction to evidence-based practice

  • Introduction to Evidence Based Practice (EBP) in Speech Pathology
  • 5 A’s of EBP – Ask, Acquire, Appraise, Apply, and Assess
  • E3BP model for evidence informed practice
  • Clinical rationale development
  • Introduction to Clinical enquiry approach in Speech Pathology:


Professional communication

  • Documentation expectations and requirements
  • Writing style expectation and requirements 
  • Reporting speech pathology data
  • Interpersonal communication for Speech Pathology practice
  • Professional and ethical responsibilities


Elements of Assessment, Measurement & Interpretation

  • Introduction to purposes of assessment (e.g., screening, diagnostic, descriptive, observation, measure change over time.)
  • Types of assessment
  • Standardised / norm referenced
  • Criterion referenced
  • Screening
  • Informal / interview / observation
  • Communication sample
  • The link between types of assessment, their purpose and their usefulness to examine different elements of the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF)
  • Basic statistical concepts for measurement
  • central tendency and variability (mean, median, mode, standard deviation)
  • normal distribution
  • standard scores, scaled scores, percentiles
  • Psychometric properties of assessment tools:
  • Validity, reliability, sensitivity and specificity
  • Communication sample, interaction and case history collection and analysis procedures
  • Analysing and interpreting assessment data
  • Personal, cultural and environmental considerations for assessment


Elements of intervention

  • Principles for Behavioural treatment approaches
  • Mechanisms of change (e.g., repeated exposure and practice; cognitive relay; teach on error)
  • Hierarchy & Cueing
  • Feedback types
  • Speech pathology intervention approaches that target different elements of the ICF framework
  • Impairment level approaches
  • Activity and participation level approaches
  • Personal, cultural and environmental considerations for intervention

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit uses an active learning approach, along with opportunities for inquiry based learning and authentic placement-like experiences to support students’ acquisition and application of knowledge and skills foundational to speech pathology practice. A total of 150 hours of focussed learning is expected for this unit. Learning strategies will include face to face and/or pre-recorded lectures, face to face tutorials, group inquiry activities and self-directed practical experience.

Students are expected to engage with lecture material that will provide the introduction to key concepts related to Evidence based practice, assessment and measurement and elements of intervention. Students are expected to attend tutorial sessions which will involve a mixture of facilitated activities and inquiry-based learning activities. Students will also engage in practical experiences with typically developing populations (e.g. older adults or pre-school children) to develop their novice level clinical skill.

The use of the active learning approach across these learning activities offers students multiple opportunities in which to engage with content and key competencies and facilitates development of both self-directed and collaborative learning, while receiving expert support.

Assessment strategy and rationale

The sequence of assessment allows students to develop and demonstrate their knowledge and skills from acquisition through to the level of sophistication where they can apply knowledge and skills to the analysis and interpretation of practice scenarios.

Non-graded Hurdle: Communication interaction sample and documentation, is designed for students to demonstrate early clinical skills in interpersonal professional communication and collecting a communication sample. The non-graded hurdle, the communication interaction sample and documentation, is designed for students to demonstrate early clinical skills in interpersonal professional communication and collecting a communication sample. The hurdle task will provide the basis for completion of assessment 2. Students must pass the hurdle task to pass the unit. Students will get a second opportunity to complete the hurdle task at a time set by the teaching staff, if they fail this assessment on their first attempt.  

Assessment 1: Quizzes, is designed for students to demonstrate acquisition and early assimilation of theoretical knowledge and provide them with feedback about their learning. The knowledge demonstrated in assessment 1 will provide a foundation for the two subsequent assessments.

Assessment 2: Communication analysis report, requires students to apply skills in analysing and interpreting communication assessment at a novice level, with appropriate professional written communication.

Assessment 3: Evidence-based practice task, requires students critique research to identify best available evidence to support clinical decision-making for a given scenario.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Non-graded Hurdle:

Communication interaction sample and documentation

Student demonstrate skills in collection of a communication sample.


LO1, LO4

GA5, GA9, GA10

Assessment 1: Quiz:

Students demonstrate factual and applied knowledge of evidence-based practice, statistics and measurement, elements of assessment and intervention.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9, GA10

Assessment 2: Communication analysis report:

Students demonstrate professional writing skills as well as emerging skills in analysis and interpretation of clinical communication samples


LO1, LO2, LO4

GA4, GA5, GA9, GA10

Assessment 3: Evidence-based practice task

Students critique research to identify best available evidence to support clinical decision-making for a given scenario.


LO2, LO3, LO4

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

In order to successfully complete and pass this unit, students 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

Dollaghan, C.A. (2007). The handbook for evidence-based practice in communication disorders. Paul. H. Brooks Publishing.

Higgs, J., Aijawi, R., McAllister, L., Franziska, T., & Loftus, S. (2012). Communicating in the health sciences (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press.

Higgs, J., Jones, M., Loftus, S., & Christensen, N. (2011). Clinical reasoning in the health professions (3rd ed.). Butterworth-Heinemann.

Hoffman, T., Bennett, S., & Del Mar, C. (2017). Evidence-based practice across the health professions. (2nd ed.). Elsevier Australia.

Meyer, S. M. (2004). Survival guide for the beginning speech-language clinician (2nd ed.). Pro-Ed. 

SpeechBITE™ (Speech Pathology Database for Best Interventions and Treatment Efficacy) website

Stein-Rubin C, F. & Fabus, R. (2018). Guide to Clinical assessment and professional Report writing in speech-language pathology, Second Edition. Plural Publishing.

The Speech Pathology Association of Australia Ltd. (2010). Evidence based practice in speech pathology [Position Statement]. Speech Pathology Australia. 

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