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SPHY403 Speech Pathology Practice 4a (Honours) ; ALHT404 Honours Research Project Implementation

Unit rationale, description and aim

This unit is the final of seven Professional Practice units that provides direct evidence of competencies required by Speech Pathology Australia for entry into the profession. It is a SPA requirement that competency in working with both child and adult populations is demonstrated in penultimate or final 4th year placements. Consequently, in this unit, students will work with a different population than in the previous professional practice unit (SPHY400/SPHY403).

During the previous six professional practice units, students have progressively increased their independence, ability to manage complexity, and skills in integrating and analyzing information. In this capstone unit honours students will engage in an extended period of professional practice experience across one or more of the Speech Pathology Australia range of practice areas of speech, language, voice, fluency, swallowing, and multimodal communication.

Entry level skills, knowledge and attitudes are consolidated throughout the unit, as students prepare for transition to the workforce. By the end of the unit, students will be expected to demonstrate entry level competency in accordance with the Competency-Based Occupational Standards for Speech Pathologists for all range of practice area/s.

Finally, Honours students will have further opportunity to demonstrate their developing skills in critical analysis, evaluation and translation of research literature to speech pathology practice.

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 - Demonstrate knowledge and skills in assessment; analysis and interpretation; planning evidence based speech pathology practice; implementation of speech pathology practice; planning, providing and managing speech pathology services; professional and supervisory practice; and lifelong learning and reflective practice as defined in the Competency-Based Occupational Standards for Entry-Level Speech Pathologists (CBOS; SPA, 2011) to entry level standard (GA1, GA4, GA5, GA 6, GA8)

LO2 - Demonstrate Reasoning, Communication, Learning and Professionalism as defined in the generic professional competencies (CBOS, SPA, 2011) to entry level standard (GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA7, GA9)

LO3 - Demonstrate ethical, holistic, and culturally responsive speech pathology practice (GA1, GA2, GA3, GA5, GA9)

LO4 - Demonstrate transfer of speech pathology knowledge, skills and attributes to both workplace learning and simulated environments (GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9)

LO5 - Critically analyse, evaluate and translate research literature to demonstrate advanced knowledge/skill of speech pathology practice in the context of an entry level placement (GA1, GA2, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9) 

Graduate attributes

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

GA2 - recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society 

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

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

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA7 - work both autonomously and collaboratively 

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

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


The Speech Pathologist as an entry level professional 

  • Communicating with the consumer, family and support members, and other professionals in practice 
  • Communication which demonstrates clinical reasoning and professional and clinical competency in practice
  • Working collaboratively and respectfully when working in teams 
  • Provision of speech pathology services which align with the Speech Pathology Australia Code of Ethics 
  • Engaging in reflection to shape learning  
  • Identification of points of difference as a graduate speech pathologist of ACU
  • Preparing job applications and assimilation of skills for interviews

The Speech Pathologist and practice at entry level 

  • Assimilating and applying previously learnt knowledge and skills to workplace settings. 
  • Provision of holistic speech pathology services which consider and integrate:
  • person- or family- driven care
  • the ICF
  • Speech Pathology Australia Code of Ethics
  • evidence based practice
  • complex presentations
  • culturally and linguistically diverse populations
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 
  • allied health work policy

  • Working collaboratively and respectfully with the consumer, family and support members, and other health professionals in practice  
  • Experiences which enable demonstration of entry level skills against the Competency Based Occupational Standards (CBOS) 
  • Application of developing research skills to professional practice.

The Speech Pathologist and community at entry level

  • Reflect on, discuss and/or demonstrate the role of speech pathologists in advocating for consumers and the profession

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit is the final professional practice unit, and as such, is the final opportunity for students to gain workplace exposure prior to entering the profession. The blended approach to this unit acknowledges that students will be experiencing a range of contexts, supervision styles and client types throughout the semester. Students will also be engaged in professional practice placement at different times during the semester, so staff have designed unit activities to accommodate scheduling of placement. 

This unit is comprised of approximately 250 hours of professional practice experiences, which are conducted, external to the University, or within on-campus speech pathology clinics. These experiences are integral to the development of competency as a speech pathologist, and enable the student to develop their skills, knowledge and attitudes within a ‘real world’ context. Students participate in these activities individually, in pairs, or in small groups and are supervised by qualified speech pathologists who support their learning and development of competencies. In addition to the professional practice experiences in this unit, approximately 40 hours of additional learning activities are completed, including tutorials, group and individual discussions, self-directed learning activities, and assessment. These foster peer learning, reflective practice, clinical reasoning and shared problem solving, and expose students to workplace contexts which they might not individually experience. 

All content is designed to further develop the students’ professional skill and identity as a speech pathologist and to ensure they continue to build and demonstrate their evidence of entry level competence across all range of practice areas, according to the Competency Based Occupational Standards (CBOS) for Entry-Level speech pathologists. Honours students are also guided to apply research knowledge and skills to speech pathology professional practice, as appropriate for the context.

Assessment strategy and rationale

To pass this unit, students are required to demonstrate entry level competency on the professional and Competency-Based Occupational Standards (CBOS) set by Speech Pathology Australia for the range of practice areas engaged with on professional practice placement. Students must also demonstrate entry level knowledge and skill via individual standardised competency-based assessments such as oral vivas and/or occupational standards competency evaluations (OSCEs). Student results are ultimately determined by the Lecturer in Charge (LIC) after considering all assessment results. 

Professional Practice Placement: All aspects of the student’s daily performance is assessable during the placement period, as competency is developed and assessed dynamically from the first to the last day of placement by the Professional Practice Educator (PPE). Student performance is assessed against behavioural descriptors which   reflect/demonstrate a hierarchy of competency development, from novice to intermediate to entry level and form the basis of the rubric used for placement assessment. The student is provided with formal formative feedback approximately midway through the placement, and summative feedback at the end of the placement period using an assessment tool called COMPASS®. Students will also be required to submit a self-assessment at both mid and final placement using this tool.

COMPASS® is a psychometrically validated assessment instrument that provides a measure of speech pathology student competence, and is recommended by Speech Pathology Australia. COMPASS® has been developed to assist in the evaluation of speech pathology students’ performance in the workplace, to identify their learning needs and to determine their readiness to enter the professional workforce. The tool incorporates resource materials to assist the educator and student in the process of developing the student’s competence1. 

Case-based learning: Students will submit clinical documents and participate in oral/simulated activities relating to cases of clients with communication difficulties. The cases have been developed to provide students with exposure to range of practice areas (ROPAs) that they may not have had opportunities to encounter on their final professional practice experiences and to ensure they can demonstrate entry-level skills when working with individuals who have these difficulties. Demonstration of entry-level knowledge and skills across all ROPAs is a requirement of Speech Pathology Australia in order for students to graduate from speech pathology programs. The cases also provide an opportunity for students to prepare for their standardised competency-based assessments (Oral Viva and OSCE).

Standardised competency-based assessment: Students will complete tasks such as oral viva(s) and/or OSCEs to demonstrate entry-level skills across the range of practice areas (ROPAs) and CBOS units/elements for speech pathology. The requirement for entry-level skills in this task reflects the nature of the tasks; that is, they are standardised and case-based, allowing for an equitable, whole of cohort, integrative and independent assessment of students’ knowledge and skills. This is an accreditation requirement of Speech Pathology Australia to ensure students are assessed to be at entry-level competence across all range of practice areas. The standardised competency-based assessments are ungraded hurdles, which students must pass in order to pass the unit. 

Honours students are required to produce evidence of their ability to critically analyse and evaluate research literature to transform speech pathology practice. Students will be required to submit written documentation that demonstrates how they have used research literature to improve or modify practice whilst on entry-level placement. This documentation could take a number of different forms including an annotated bibliography, contribution to a journal club or quality improvement project. This task will address a different client population from that addressed in the critical analysis task of SPHY403.

1. McAllister, S., Lincoln, M., Ferguson, A. & McAllister, L. (2013) (2nd ed) COMPASS®: Competency assessment in speech pathology technical manual. Melbourne: Speech Pathology Australia, p. 1-2. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Completion of Professional Practice Placement including:

  • Completion of mandatory tasks 
  • a Pass on COMPASS at entry level 

Ungraded hurdle

LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9

Case-based learning

Students will submit clinical documents and participate in oral/simulated activities relating to cases of clients with communication difficulties.

Ungraded Hurdle

LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA2, GA3,

GA4, GA5, GA6,

GA7, GA8, GA9

Standardised competency-based assessment

Students will complete oral vivas and/or OSCEs to demonstrate entry-level knowledge and skills across ROPAs in a standardised setting/format.  

Ungraded hurdle

LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9

Critical analysis of research literature:

Students will demonstrate the ability to use research literature to improve or modify practice with their current client group.

Ungraded hurdle


GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

Higgs, J., Aijawi, R., McAllister, L.,  Trede, F., & 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.

Lyons, R. & McAllister, L. (2019). Qualitative research in communication disorders: An introduction for students and clinicians. J&R Press.

McAllister, L., & Lincoln, M. (2005). Clinical education in speech-language pathology. Whurr Publishing. 

McAllister, L., Paterson, M., Higgs, J., & Bithell, C. (2010).  Innovations in fieldwork education: The allied health experience. Sense Publishers. 

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

Nelson, L. K. (2017). Research in communication sciences and disorders: Methods for systematic inquiry. Plural Publishing.

Speech Pathology Australia. (2017). Competency-based occupational standards for speech pathologists revised. Retrieved 8th October, 2019, from

Stagnitti, K., Schoo, A., & Welch, D. (Eds.). (2010). Clinical and fieldwork placement in the health professions. Oxford University Press.

World Health Organization (2001). International classification of functioning, disability and health. World Health Organization.

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