Blogging About Research – Phonemic Awareness in SLP Graduate Students

One of the perks of still being in graduate school means I have access to any and all journal articles since the dawn of time. Rachel at “Talks Just Fine” suggested a new blog installment where other #slpbloggers link up, and review current research within their scope of practice. I am all about this new venture! So, here is my first review of current research.

A Summary

Spencer, Schuele, Guillot, and Lee (2011) discussed the role of phonemic awareness in early literacy instruction, and how Speech-Language Pathologists have demonstrated increased ability for such skills. For instance, Spencer et al. (2008) evaluated teachers’ ability to perform phoneme segmentation; while teacher’s were accurate 55% of the time, SLPs were  75% accurate. So, why did the SLPs outperform classroom teachers?

In the current article (Spencer et al., 2011), the authors recruited 196 SLP undergraduate and graduate students at four Universities in the U.S.; Spencer et al. (2008) participants were the comparison group. Paper based phonemic awareness tests were administered to  students which evaluated (1) phoneme segmentation, (2) phoneme identification, and (3) phoneme isolation. The article also evaluated the type of coursework students had taken and how they contribute to phonemic awareness skill.

Overall, Spencer and colleagues (2011) found a phonetics course contributes the most to phonemic awareness skills, and may account for the discrepancies Spencer et al. (2008) found when SLPs were compared to educators.

A Review

The same authors have been writing on this topic for at least 5 years,  I like that the research impacts SLP undergraduate and graduate students; it sheds light on the role and importance of a phonetics course. When I was taking mine, it seemed like the only time I would use the skill was when transcribing a language sample or on an assessment of some sort. After reading this article however, I have changed my own view on the importance of learning these skills as an SLP.  Conducting therapy with children developing these early literacy skills means I play a role in the acquisition. So do their teachers.

There are some limitations to the results. For instance, the phonetics course only accounts for 26% of the variability in a comparison, the assessment measuring phonemic awareness skills was not designed with this intent, and accounting for individual differences in training, background, and knowledge was not directly targeted.

I would love to do an  in-service training for discussing the role of developing phonemic awareness skills. More importantly though, to discuss their own ability to perform the tasks and ensure they are well equipped to go forth and segment! And for the SLP graduate school professors out there, highlight this research for your students in phonetics. Like taking that calculus class in high school, there is always the question, “When will I ever use this knowledge??”. Spencer, Schuele, Guillot, and Lee (2011) have given a new answer for me; I need to be able to perform these skills so that I can instruct future clients to do the same.


8 thoughts on “Blogging About Research – Phonemic Awareness in SLP Graduate Students

  1. Ashli

    I’m so glad that I found your blog! I live in GA, too. I just finished my freshman year and I’m trying to decide where I’d like to go (in-state, of course). Why did you choose UWG?

  2. Great review. Totally develop that inservice. Write down your ideas for inservices as they come to you. Also, think about how you could turn many of these little niche interests into lightening talks. The longer I am a speech therapist the more I realize people have no idea what we actually do.

    1. Heck, I’m just starting my master’s program, and feel that way…especially when I tell them that I hope to specialize in swallowing disorders.

  3. Pingback: Blogging about Research #SLPBloggers June Edition | "Talks Just Fine"

  4. What a great synopsis! I love the leap that you made from the presented material to how it may be implemented. An inservice–pure genius. I think I would have simply read this article and thought “It’s a good thing I was such a Phonetics geek”. But you’ve found a way to make the information continue to work. I love it. Thank you.

  5. I also think, personally, SLPs tend to be ‘word nerds’ – more interested in linguistics and the details of speech/language structures than other professionals may be. Which may play a role in our career choice to begin with? Phonetics was one of the most challenging undergraduate courses I took, but it’s also something that comes with practice. I use it daily! Great review!

    Schoolhouse Talk!

  6. Love the research blogging idea, and as an undergrad, it’s good to hear that phonetics will actually be useful one day. Thanks for the enlightenment — you made a research paper nice and accessible for me and I appreciate it.

  7. Pingback: Blogging about Research #SLPBloggers June Edition - Gray Matter Therapy

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