Impact of placement type on the development of clinical competency in speech-language pathology students

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Background Speech-language pathology students gain experience and clinical competency through clinical education placements. However, currently little empirical information exists regarding how competency develops. Existing research about the effectiveness of placement types and models in developing competency is generally descriptive and based on opinions and perceptions. The changing nature of education of speech-language pathology students, diverse student cohorts, and the crisis in finding sufficient clinical education placements mean that establishing the most effective and efficient methods for developing clinical competency in students is needed. Aims To gather empirical information regarding the development of competence in speech-language pathology students; and to determine if growth of competency differs in groups of students completing placements that differ in terms of caseload, intensity and setting. Methods & Procedures Participants were students in the third year of a four-year undergraduate speech-language pathology degree who completed three clinical placements across the year and were assessed with the COMPASS® competency assessment tool. Competency development for the whole group across the three placements is described. Growth of competency in groups of students completing different placement types is compared. Interval-level data generated from the students' COMPASS® results were subjected to parametric statistical analyses. Outcomes & Results The whole group of students increased significantly in competency from placement to placement across different placement settings, intensities and client age groups. Groups completing child placements achieved significantly higher growth in competency when compared with the competency growth of students completing adult placements. Growth of competency was not significantly different for students experiencing different intensity of placements, or different placement settings. Conclusions & Implications These results confirm that the competency of speech-language pathology students develops across three clinical placements over a one-year period regardless of placement type or context, indicating that there may be a transfer of learning between placements types. Further research investigating patterns of competency development in speech-language pathology students is warranted to ensure that assumptions used to design clinical learning opportunities are based on valid evidence. © 2013 Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists.




Sheepway, L., Lincoln, M., & McAllister, S. (2014). Impact of placement type on the development of clinical competency in speech-language pathology students. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 49(2), 189–203.

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