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Guide to Starting an Academic Program in Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD)

Section 3 – Implementing the Academic Program

Implementing the Curriculum

This section gives guidance about how to refine and add more details to the proposed curriculum design. To begin conceptualizing a new CSD program, refer to the mission statements of the institution and the program. These statements will form the foundation of the program's curriculum development and the delivery system. In addition, remember to balance the academic and clinical education components to ensure the breadth and depth of the scope of practice.

Some programs may have unique features or may focus on a particular clinical setting or population (e.g., medical vs. school-based focus).

The following considerations are critical in finalizing the curriculum design:

  • Ensure that program goals guide curriculum development, implementation, and assessment.
  • Specify the core knowledge and skills necessary to enter independent professional practice, including
    • incorporating evidence-based practice in coursework and clinical education;
    • infusing multicultural elements into the curriculum;
    • including ethics education, contemporary professional issues, and business practices;
    • providing access to clients across the lifespan with a variety of communication disorders.
  • Identify student learning outcomes for the overall program and courses.
  • Ensure that your program reflects compliance with the CAA standards [PDF].
  • Ensure that your program reflects compliance with the Council For Clinical Certification's (CFCC) standards, state licensure requirements, and state teacher certification requirements, as appropriate.

Curriculum Sequence and Course Development

Although the program offerings and course descriptions were developed during the proposal phase, the program director and faculty need to complete the program design in order to implement it fully. This may include modifying the original curricular design and sequence to be consistent with the faculty hiring plan and access to/procurement of needed space, materials, and equipment. Additional considerations when designing and implementing the curriculum include the following:

  • Faculty participation in curriculum development
    • creating content and course outlines
    • mapping knowledge and skills (i.e., identifying courses across the curriculum where knowledge and skills are taught)
    • refining course descriptions, if warranted
    • creating course syllabi and outlines to be submitted to curriculum committee for approval
    • identifying diagnostic tests and instructional materials to support student learning
  • Sequencing
    • balancing academic and clinical components of the curriculum
    • developing course sequences for students, if concentrations or tracks will be featured
    • creating a time frame for degree completion
    • determining required versus elective course work
    • incorporating a research component and capstone project (if required)
  • Additional considerations
    • determining the frequency of course offerings and number of sections per course
    • using distance learning and technology in course offerings (telecommunication technologies may be used exclusively or in combination with a classroom setting [hybrid or blended courses])

A number of resources can guide faculty in planning curriculum and courses (see Section 5, Resources).

Administering the Clinical Education Component

Establishing a network of external clinical affiliations is critical to the success of the students, as program administrators must ensure that students are exposed to a variety of clinical populations, disorders, and ages and are able to adapt to different clinical sites. Students will be expected to acquire knowledge and develop skills and abilities within the classroom as well as in clinical placements. The program has the responsibility for assigning student clinical placements and also for monitoring the students while in placement.

To initiate partnerships with a network of clinical sites, you may consider the following activities:

  • Disseminate literature about the new program.
  • Search the web for clinical facilities in your geographic area/region.
  • Contact local pediatric and adult educational and health care facilities.

To secure and maintain the network, consider the following standard practices:

  • Develop a description of practicum placement criteria, including qualifications of supervisors.
  • Develop a clinical affiliation agreement.
  • Communicate frequently with the site.
  • Provide opportunities for orientation and appreciation of external clinical sites and supervisors.

A number of resources can guide faculty in clinical education and identifying best practices in university-externship relationships (see Section 5, Resources).


Assessment of Knowledge and Skills of Students

  • Formative assessment measures the development of academic knowledge and clinical skills throughout the program of study and should be a component of each course (e.g., grading rubrics). Assessment tools should include method of achievement, skills exhibited, and method of evaluation. Develop procedures for evaluating the extent to which goals and objectives are achieved, and develop and implement a plan for student remediation where necessary.
  • Faculty should determine overlap of assessment across the academic and clinical curriculum. Examples of mechanisms in coursework include in-class projects as well as taking and analyzing a language sample; clinical examples include case presentations, written evaluations, and supervisory conferences.
  • Summative assessment is a comprehensive evaluation of learning outcomes at the culmination of educational preparation. Summative assessment yields critical information for determining an individual's achievement of knowledge and skills. The results of the final assessment may be used to determine eligibility for graduation. Academic examples include mid-term exam, final exam, capstone research project, and comprehensive exam. Clinical examples include mid-term and final evaluation of clinical skills (in-house and externship practicum) and capstone research project.

Assessment of Program

  • Conduct regular and ongoing assessment of academic and clinical components, program quality, currency, and effectiveness; use results for continuous improvement (e.g., curriculum changes).
  • Develop a plan for systematic self-study, including the mechanisms to evaluate each program component and the schedule on which the evaluations are conducted and analyzed (e.g., strategic planning, annual faculty retreat).
  • Evaluate consistency of offerings, resources, and student learning outcomes across delivery modes, if applicable.
  • Examples of assessment mechanisms include student exit interviews, employer satisfaction surveys, and alumni surveys; clinical supervisor evaluations; community members and advisory board evaluations

Assessment of Faculty Members

  • Develop a plan for regular evaluation of faculty by program leadership.
  • Follow institutional policy/guidelines for retention, promotion, and tenure.
  • Examples include effectiveness of teaching (course and teacher evaluations, classroom observation, evaluation committee, scholarship productivity, service to the university, community and discipline, continuing education currency, and maintenance of credentials), service (campus and community), and scholarship (research and publications).

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