Construction of a Course Syllabus: Integration of the ASHA Knowledge and Skills Acquisition

Created by the Special Interest Group 10: Issues in Higher Education Subcommittee for Pedagogy Resources Development

The Course Syllabus...

  • Should be a document that captures the scope of the discipline and identifies the contribution of the course to that discipline
  • May include statements that impel a person to want to take the course
  • Serves as a roadmap to the course
    • States the conceptual structure of the course and identifies specific course content, goals, and focus
  • Is a contract between the professor and student
  • Delineates what is expected of the student and what is expected of the instructor

A Course Syllabus Should Include...

  • Basic course information
  • Professor/instructor information
  • A course rationale/purpose
  • Course focus/description
  • Course objectives
  • Texts/readings
  • Course assignments/tests
  • Grading criteria
  • Course policies
  • Course outline/tentative schedule
  • ADA policy
  • ASHA standards

The information below lists recommended features for a complete syllabus in the field of communicative sciences and disorders.

Text in boxes like this are samples from course syllabi

Basic Course Information

  • Name of university department
  • Course title and number
  • Section number
  • Semester date
  • Credit hours
  • Dates/times class meets
  • Classroom location
  • Prerequisites

Professor/Instructor Information

  • Name, title
  • Teaching credentials
  • Office location
  • Office phone number/e-mail
  • Office hours
  • Department office location/number
  • Graduate teaching assistant information
  • Web page address

A Course Rationale/Purpose

  • The rationale indicates where the course fits into the overall intellectual area
  • An example of this can be found in the following syllabus excerpt from an Introduction to Speech and Hearing course:

Place of Course in Program: The purpose of this 4-credit course is to provide students with an initial overview of the field of communication sciences and disorders. The students will gain their first exposure to speech-language pathology and audiology through lectures and presentations by members of the faculty of the Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology.

Course Focus/Description

  • Describes the general scope or overall concepts to be learned in the course
  • The following is an excerpt from an introductory course on speech, language, and hearing:

Course Focus: (a) the nature of and requisites for human communication and language learning; (b) theoretical models of language acquisition; (c) intra/intercultural language differences and their impact on mainstream communicative competence; (d) life-long language acquisition and strategies for facilitating such acquisition; and (e) the nature, causes, and prevention of disorders of language, speech, and hearing.

  • Another appropriate source for the course description is to take the description directly from the course catalog as in this excerpt from School-Age Language class:

Catalog Description: This course examines various approaches to working with children and adolescents with language disabilities. Practical application of language assessment procedures, individualized planning, and language intervention strategies are discussed. Language in the classroom for school-age children and adolescents and collaborative strategies also are covered. Multicultural literacy and the multidimensional nature of language in the classroom will be addressed.

Course Objectives

  • What the student should gain from the course
  • Helpful to include objectives for each of the class meetings or topics
  • Course objectives can be specific
  • May mirror ASHA standards (see ASHA standards section)
  • An example of course objectives can be found in the following excerpt from an introductory course on speech, language, and hearing:

The student will:

  1. Examine the professions that focus on research relative to the nature of language, speech, and hearing.
  2. Define the terms communication, language, and speech as they relate to human as well as to non-human communication skills.
  3. Understand the impact of physiological variables (respiration, phonation, resonation, articulation, mentation, audition) on hearing, language and speech.
  4. Understand the theoretical models of language acquisition.
  5. Understand the nature of inter- and intra-cultural language differences.
  6. Understand the impact that cultural differences have on language acquisition, child performance in school, and adult opportunity in employment settings.
  7. Understand the sequence of development for the phonological, semantic, syntactic-morphological, and pragmatic systems.
  8. Understand how caregivers can positively affect the acquisition of communication, language, and speech.
  9. Define emergent literacy; understand the relationship between language acquisition and emergent-literacy development; and understand how to enhance the development of emergent-literacy skills.
  10. Demonstrate knowledge of language development by systematically analyzing a child's language skills for MLU, and by informally estimating skills in the areas of phonology, morphology, syntax, and pragmatics.

Texts, Readings, Course Packets, Handouts, and Other Resources

  • Include full APA references for published materials
  • Clearly label required and optional texts
  • Clearly specify if texts, handouts, etc. are required to be brought to class meetings
  • If materials available through alternate formats (e.g., online downloads) give specific directions on how these can be accessed

Course Assignments/Tests

  • Describe assignments in great detail. May include specifics of what should be included (e.g., 1–2 paragraphs dedicated to points) if have clear expectations
  • Include formats of tests (e.g., written essay, take-home)
  • Example of course assignments:

Exams: There will be a mid-term and final exam (30 and 25 points, respectively). Both of these exams will be "synthesis" type, essay exams.

Article Critique (15 pts): You will read a current research article (i.e., report on a study) focused on assessment or intervention and provide a 2-page summary and critique as well as an evidence-based practice (EBP) form. Your topic must be on narratives, early literacy (e.g., print or phonemic awareness), word decoding, reading comprehension, or spelling. It cannot be a required reading for this class. If you have any questions whether your article qualifies as a research article on clinical services (a study was completed or, at the very least, observations were conducted on a group of individuals), please see me up to one week prior to the due date. Use the following suggested format for writing your critique: your reference goes at the top of the page, single spaced, following APA 5th edition guidelines, then: (the rest is double-spaced) 1–2 paragraphs (MAX!) summarizing the study (this includes information re: purpose, subjects, method, results, and conclusions), 1–2 paragraphs re: how the information relates to the class readings/lectures/discussion, 1–2 paragraphs re: clinical and/or implications, if any, and 1 paragraph re: what you thought of the article itself and any remaining questions (this can actually be written "separately" from the body of the paper, if it doesn't seem to flow).

Grading Criteria

Sample Scoring Criteria and Evaluation Scale:

Course Work Points Grading Scale
    A  92–100%
Paper I: Prevention Flyer 20 A-  90–91%
Presentation Handout/Quiz 30 B+  88–89%
Observation 30 B  82–87%
Fluency Analysis 30 B-  80–81%
Midterm Exam 40 C+  78–79%
Final Exam 50 C  72–77%
    C-  70–71%
D+  68–69%
Total Possible Points 200  

Course Policies

  • Can be included to specify classroom rules and student expectations
  • Explicitly states policies for late assignments, attendance, absences, missed exams, etc.
  • Delineates written expectations such as APA style
  • Policies on missed material
    • cannot simply deny excused absences, but rather you must have a clear policy. May want to include a statement of what constitutes an excused absence.
  • Academic Honesty
    • Departmental and university
    • May include specific policies on defining plagiarism and/or cheating
    • May be general such as the following example:

Academic Honesty: A standard of honesty, fairly applied to all students, is essential to a learning environment. Students abridging a standard of honesty must accept the consequences; penalties are assessed by appropriate classroom instructors or other designated people. Serious cases may result in discipline at the college or University level and may result in suspension or dismissal. Dismissal from a college for academic dishonesty, constitutes dismissal from the University.(University Student Handbook)

The following is an example of course policies to include in a syllabus:

  • Attendance and Class Participation: Students are expected to attend each class-attendance will be taken. Each student is expected to read assigned material prior to class and participate in class discussions. Students may be called on to answer questions and provide opinions during discussions.
  • Students who miss class are responsible for content. Any student who misses a class has the responsibility for obtaining copies of notes, handouts, assignments, etc. If additional assistance is still necessary, an appointment should be scheduled with the instructor. Class time is not to be used to go over material with students who have missed class.
  • University policy dictates that students must seek the instructor's permission to tape record class lectures.
  • All cell phones/pages MUST be turned off during class time.
  • Students are required to conduct themselves according to professional standards as discussed in class when conducting on-site observations.
  • Work done outside of class must be reasonably correct in mechanics (e.g. spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc.). Points will be deducted for inadequate work.
  • All typed assignments completed outside of class must be double-spaced, using Times, Times New Roman, or Arial font. All font sizes for typed assignments must be size 12. Any font size less than 12 will be returned for re-typing to required font size.
  • In ALL work, use person-first language to be consistent with IDEA. Emphasize the person more than the disability (i.e., a child with Down syndrome, NOT a Down syndrome child).
  • Student work will be returned as promptly as possible.
  • Submission of work taken directly from another source (e.g. lesson plan copied from a book, the internet, or material developed by another student) will be considered plagiarism and grounds for no credit on the assignment. Students are encouraged, however, to use a variety of resources in obtaining ideas and illustrations that will help them complete assignments independently. See the APA Guide for the correct method to cite other authors' work.
  • Work submitted late will receive an automatic 5-point reduction from the earned grade. Students are encouraged to submit all assignments on time.

Course Outline and Tentative Schedule

  • Term "tentative" stresses that schedule is tentative and subject to change
  • Covers topics for every class meeting
  • Assigns readings for every class meeting
  • Gives due dates for papers, projects, assignments
  • Gives dates of exams
  • Marks guest lectures, canceled classes, holidays

An example of an outline/schedule:

Date Topics Readings
1/19 Overview of Course: What is the Role of the Speech-Language Pathologist in Regard to Literacy? American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2000). Roles and responsibilities of speech-language pathologists with respect to reading and writing in children and adolescents: Guidelines, and technical report. Rockville, MD: ASHA [Technical report].
1/26 Evidence Based Practice Assignment 1 Due Chapter 1 (text) Justice, L. M., & Fey, M. E. (2004, Sept. 21). Evidence-based practice in schools: Integrating craft and theory with science and data. The ASHA Leader , 4–5, 30–32.
2/2 Narrative Discourse Topics for paper due by start of class Apel, K., & Masterson, J. (1998). Assessment and intervention for narrative skills: What's the story? ASHA Videoconference, March.

ADA Policy

  • Written ADA policy is required on all course syllabi.
  • University should have policy

An example of suggested language includes:
"Students with disabilities needing academic accommodation should; (1) register with and provide documentation to the Student Disability Resource Center; (2) bring a letter to the instructor indicating the need for accommodation and what type. This should be done during the first week of class."

ASHA Standards

  • ASHA Standards for the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology consist of seven standards related to academic and clinical training as well as continuing education for individuals who wish to obtain/maintain certification. Of primary importance to academic course work is:
  • Standard III: Program of Study—Knowledge Outcomes. This standard deals with academic preparation in the following areas:
    • Articulation
    • Fluency
    • Voice and resonance
    • Receptive and expressive language
    • Hearing
    • Swallowing
    • Cognitive aspects of communication
    • Social aspects of communication
    • Communication modalities
  • Competency of these knowledge outcomes may be demonstrated in academic coursework.
  • Standard IV: Program of StudySkills Outcomes. This standard deals with more clinical application in the following areas:
  • Articulation
  • Fluency
  • Voice and resonance
  • Receptive and expressive language
  • Hearing
  • Swallowing
  • Cognitive aspects of communication
  • Social aspects of communication
  • Communication modalities
  • Competency of skills outcomes may be demonstrated in clinical practica and/or in academic coursework. Demonstration in academic coursework is particularly applicable if a specific communication disorder or skill is not addressed in the clinical setting.
  • On the syllabus, include a statement listing the Standards covered in the course content State student learning objectives using the language in the Standards as a model
  • Provide assignments/projects descriptions with corresponding Standards to indicate performance-based assessment
  • The following is an example of how standards can be added into a syllabus for language disorders:
Standard Requirements/Objectives Learning Activities Portfolio Evidence Evaluation Criteria
III-B Knowledge of the basic human communication processes involving human communication including its neurological, psychological, developmental, linguistic, and cultural bases Exams Lectures Readings Participation Graded Exam Instructor Grading
III-D Knowledge of the principles and methods of assessment for people with expressive and receptive language disorders , including consideration of the physiological, psychological, developmental, linguistic, and cultural correlates of this disorder Exams Lectures Readings ParticipationVideo Graded Exam, Project, Paper Instructor Grading
III-D Knowledge of the principles and methods of intervention for people with expressive and receptive language disorders , including consideration of the physiological, psychological, developmental, linguistic, and cultural correlates of this disorder Exams Lectures Readings Participation Graded Exam, Project Instructor Grading
  • Given that the instructor is responsible for determining whether the student is competent on the specific Knowledge and Skills standards:
    • Include a policy (agreed upon by one's department) of the criterion needed to meet a competency (e.g., score of 80% on test questions which address a specific standard)
    • Include a policy on what will be done to help remediate the students' knowledge and skills if a competency is not met (e.g., student will rewrite a test question until the 80% criterion is met)
  • The following syllabus excerpt is an example of how one department agreed that a competency was met and how remediation would be conducted:

In this course, your knowledge for etiologies of receptive and expressive language disorders, cognitive aspects of communication, and prevention, assessment, and intervention of receptive and expressive language disabilities will be assessed on the appropriate portions of the exams, or other assignments. Your department has set a competency of 80% or better on these assessments to meet ASHA standards. Students failing to attain the set criteria on a required competency assessment will be provided a remediation plan and an additional attempt to pass the competency. If students do not pass the competency a second time, one additional remediation will be provided. For students failing to attain the set criteria on a required competency assessment after the third attempt, the department and university are not able to recommend their application for ASHA certification and state licensure, even though they may receive an acceptable course/clinic grade or exceed the minimum GPA.


  • Crys, T. E. (1998). Essential Skills for college teaching: An Instructional systems approach. Las Cruces, NM: Center for Educational Development, New Mexico State University.
  • McKeachie, W. J. (1999). Teaching tips: Strategies for college and university teachers (10th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
  • Schoenfeld, A. C. and Magnan, R. (1994). Mentor in a manual: Climbing the academic ladder to tenure. Madison, WI: Atwood Publishing.


Special thanks to the following individuals for their contributions of sample syllabi and resources on syllabus construction:

  • Kenn Apel
  • Corey L. Clemente
  • Jay Lubinsky
  • Lisa Scott Trautman
  • Carol H. Seery
  • Julie Wolter
  • Richard Zraick

ASHA Corporate Partners