Response By Ken Bleile

Ethics Roundtable: When a Student Fails to Make the Grade

Ken Bleile, Ph.D. CCC-SLP
Associate Professor and Head
Department of Communicative Disorders
University of Northern Iowa

Thankfully, cases such as Sarah's do not occur frequently. Unfortunately, what such cases lack in frequency they more than make up in intensity and potential for divisiveness. Most often, the off-site supervisor comes away muttering about why he or she should provide supervision when the university does not appear to value the report. As in the case of Sarah, the fact that others have noticed similar problems may further convince the off-site supervisor of the accuracy of his or her observations. The university practicum coordinator, on the other hand, may grumble that the off-site supervisor does not fully understand the importance of graduating students in a timely manner.

Which position represents the best ethical standard-- that of the off-site supervisor or that of the practicum coordinator? I believe the off-site supervisor comes closest to the ethical standards set forth in our profession's Code of Ethics. The off-site supervisor is concerned about Sarah's lack of clinical abilities, while the practicum coordinator's major concern seems with the student. Students are a mechanism through which faculty in universities provide service to the community. Hard as it sometimes is for those of us in universities to remember, a student's well-being cannot be paramount in all situations.

It seems to me that the responsibility of the off-site supervisor is to speak with Sarah and the practicum coordinator, explain her concerns, listen to feedback, and then give Sarah the evaluation and grade that most accurately reflects her performance. Sarah has an opportunity to appeal the grade. Determination of a final grade is likely to lie with the university, the organization in which Sarah is enrolled as a student. If the off-site supervisor disagrees with the final grade given to Sarah, she may wish to write a letter of concern to the practicum coordinaotr, sending copies to the department's Clinic Director and its Department Head.

To submit cases or to be added to the list of respondents please contact: Helen Sharp Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, 307 WJSHC University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242. Phone: 319-335-6596, fax 319-335-8851, e-mail: [email protected]

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