May 8, 2007 Feature

Core Audiology Education Considered

Participants in the 2006 "Audiology Education Summit II: Strengthening Partnerships in Clinical Education," sketched a blueprint for the profession's future, drawing on the wisdom of key players.

Clinical audiologists, educators, and other stakeholders focused on five major issues: core areas in audiology education, value and challenges of clinical sites, selection of clinical externship sites, student preparation before clinical placements, and student evaluation during clinical placements. Some highlights follow.

Core Audiology Education

Participants identified the core clinical practice skill areas in which students must achieve proficiency. "Core" was defined as those critical areas of clinical practice that students should have achieved upon completion of the doctoral program in order to begin professional practice. "Depth of skill" was defined as the level of independence necessary to enter clinical practice, while seeking expert advice when needed. "Proficiency" was defined as a skill level that is consistent or developed, requiring guidance or infrequent consultation.

Seven breakout groups considered this topic using a list of proposed core areas. The list, prepared in advance by the summit advisory committee, was based on skills included in the ASHA and American Academy of Audiology (AAA) scopes of practice for audiologists.

Discussion emphasized the need for integration across categories. For example, one group defined diagnostic skill as the ability to "effectively use a case history and appropriately select, administer, and interpret results to ensure that the correct diagnostic and referral outcome is achieved." A second group indicated that evidenced-based practice (EBP) should not constitute a separate category—rather, it should underpin everything that audiologists do.

The disagreement between and within discussion groups on core skill areas for new audiology graduates led to a unanimous decision—that defining core skills was an important exercise for the profession. Consensus on core skill areas will benefit students, clinical audiology programs, and potential employers, and will be particularly valuable in establishing student outcomes for graduation.

Clinical Externships

Participants identified the benefit for sites that accept student externs, including:

  • Pre-screening potential employees
  • New information and methods, evidence-based practice principles, and other emerging trends in audiology
  • The opportunity to give back to the profession
  • Enhanced clinical productivity

Selection of Clinical Sites

Six breakout groups discussed three essential issues related to clinical sites: the essential characteristics of a quality clinical site used for rotations and externships; the characteristics of a quality preceptor; and the considerations for matching a student with a specific clinical site.

Participants agreed that different sites offer valuable experiences despite variations. For example, while currency of equipment was defined as an essential characteristic of a quality site, participants noted the educational value for students using older, but still-functional basic equipment.

Student Preparation

The breakout groups considered four questions related to students' preparation before they are placed at clinical sites, including how to:

  • Identify effective ways to sequence course work
  • Determine the sequence of clinical experiences
  • Determine a student's readiness for a placement
  • Communicate student readiness between the program and placement site

Participants agreed that the exact order of courses was not as important as the final outcome—a connection between the didactic and the practical. Most also agreed that most course work should precede development of clinical skills, but that some basic course work could be performed after or during clinical placements, as appropriate.

Student Evaluation

The breakout groups considered several areas related to student evaluation:

  • Tool(s) for evaluating student performance during rotations or during externship
  • Effective remediation programs for students having difficulty during clinical rotations/externships
  • Effective communication regarding student performance during the clinical placement among the university, the clinical site, and the student during the rotations or externship(s)

Participants agreed that using a tool to evaluate student performance, both from the preceptor's and the student's point of view, is essential. They also agreed that the need for remediation can be prevented through strategies such as a careful admissions process, development of technical standards, and evaluation of readiness prior to a clinical placement. In addition, frequent and formal communication among sites, students, and university programs is essential to a successful placement.

Next Steps

While another summit has not been planned, some summit evaluation comments called for another meeting, noting the need for more standardization of clinical issues such as externships, placements, procedures, and evaluation tools.

Other attendees indicated they appreciated the networking and information, saying they expected to put some of the information from the summit to work immediately. One attendee said the summit solidified the need for a manual that would explain what a student can expect by joining a facility and what the facility would expect of the student; another said the summit validated many existing policies and philosophies.

The first summit, sponsored in 2005 by ASHA, the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology, and the Council of Academic Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders, identified clinical education as a critical focus for further discussion. AAA joined in the 2006 effort.

The recently released 278-page conference report [PDF] is available on the ASHA Web site.

Vic Gladstone, chief staff officer for audiology, can be reached at vgladstone@asha.org.

Loretta Nunez, director of academic affairs, can be reached at lnunez@asha.org.

Patti Tice, director of credentialing, can be reached at ptice@asha.org.

cite as: Gladstone, V. , Nunez, L.  & Tice, P. (2007, May 08). Core Audiology Education Considered. The ASHA Leader.

  

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