Report of the Working Group on Undergraduate Education

Judith Brasseur, Ph.D., California State University-Chico

Mary Louise Edwards, Ph.D., Syracuse University

Jeri Logemann, Ph.D., Northwestern University

Dick Mallard, Ph.D., Southwest Texas State University


In August, 1996, the Executive Board of the Council of Graduate Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders (CGPCSD) appointed a Working Group on Undergraduate Education and issued the following charges:

    1. to promote the development and dissemination of undergraduate curricular models;

b. to investigate the process of student assessment (including that for determining admission to graduate schools) and its fairness and accuracy in assessing all areas of student competence (i.e., academic, scientific, and clinical;

c. to clearly delineate the differences in content and goals of paraprofessional training, preprofessional preparation, and undergraduate education.

During the past two years, this group has conducted its work via face-to-face meetings at the annual CGPCSD meetings, six conference calls, e-mails, Faxes, phone calls and regular mail. Summaries of conference calls have been sent to the Council President and President-Elect, and annual reports have been presented to Council members at the annual Council meetings.

A variety of strategies have been used to collect data relative to our charges. These have included:

  1. Compiling a list of undergraduate only programs (65 programs across 27 states);
  2. Sampling factors currently being used in the graduate program admission process as indicated via a non-random sample of recommendation forms/checklists from various various university programs;
  3. Identifying characteristics of capstone courses across academic disciplines;
  4. Conducting a literature review on problem solving;
  5. Reviewing literature on assessing clinical potential [Refer to Brasseur, J., 1996.

Determination of Clinical Potential. In C. Scott, Ed., CGPCSD Proceedings of

the Annual Conference on Graduate Education, 83-91];

6. Surveying Council member programs Spring and Summer, 1997

7. Consulting with the Chair of the Working Group on Educational Outcomes;

8. Determining types of programs across institutions;

9. Attempting to identify clinical tracking procedures;

10. Distributing Draft definitions to members and requesting feedback;

11.Conducting follow-ups with 12 programs that indicated their program requires a capstone course;

12. Perusing the 1996-97 Council Survey for data relevant to charges.


The following operational definitions were developed by the group and revised and refined based upon the feedback received from member programs.

Paraprofessional training focuses on providing the non-professional speech or hearing assistant with the information needed to follow the directions of a certified speech-language pathologist (SLP) or audiologist (Aud) in providing routine tasks to patients with communication disorders. Training would involve basic information on the anatomy and physiology of the upper aero-digestive tract or the hearing mechanism, basic information on use of procedures that the assistants would use for routine tasks supervised by the certified SLP or Aud, communication skills, behavior management, observation and report writing.

Preprofessional preparation is designed to provide the student with the necessary course work to move into graduate education to become a SLP or Aud. Course work would include anatomy and physiology of normal speech, hearing and swallowing, speech acoustics, phonetics, normal development of speech and language, introductory courses in disorders of speech, language and hearing, courses in psychology, linguistics, ethics and ethical behavior broadly defined in all contexts, courses in educational needed for school certification and/or ASHA certification, and course work in problem solving. The courses in basic sciences would be utilized in understanding clinical techniques and in solving clinical problems, e.g., what speech and/or swallowing changes would you expect when the hyoid bone is removed?

Undergraduate education is an educational program designed to provide students with information on the discipline of human communication sciences and an introduction to its disorders with minimal or no course work included to obtain clinical certification, state licensure or licensure by the State Board of Education. Course work would focus on the discipline, not the professions, and would include: anatomy and physiology of the upper aero-digestive tract and hearing mechanism; basic mathematical and scientific theory to understand the development of research in the discipline; understanding of the physics and acoustics principles involved in speech and hearing; basic psychological principles of human interaction; normal developmental characteristics of speech, language and hearing; normal processes of swallowing and its predictable variations; linguistics/sociolinguistics; anatomy and physiology of the central nervous system and all other areas of basic science knowledge. This information could then be applied to clinical problem solving or to basic science problem solving within or outside the discipline. Graduate from such a program may go into a number fields including psychology, medicine, dentistry, etc.

RECOMMENDATION 1. In 1996, the Council discussed the importance of undergraduate students gaining broad knowledge in related fields a well as in communication sciences and disorders. Resolution 96-1 was passed, and one part of it stated: " Students in undergraduate programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders find an increasing need to demonstrate the breath of their knowledge base in communication sciences and other relevant and appropriate subjects." In addition, a number of programs have reported negative reactions from students, university administrators, school superintendents and state education directors, and elected state representatives with regard to the failure of some undergraduate students to gain entry to a graduate program at a time when there is an existing demand for speech/language pathologists and audiologists. Therefore, we recommend the individual Council programs review how they design and market their undergraduate programs. For those whose existing focus is preprofessional, it may be beneficial to shift to an undergraduate liberal arts focus and to market the variety of future careers which students may pursue after the B.S./B.A.


Information about the work being completed by the Councilís Working Group on Educational Outcomes suggests that they are addressing Charge B and we would like to defer to them.

However, one section of CGPCSD Resolution 96-1 stated, "graduate programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders could potentially improve their sensitivity and specificity when screening applicants if they had a valid and reliable measure of prerequisite knowledge." Another part stipulated that "a catalyst is needed to encourage undergraduate programs to adopt a curriculum that can improve studentsí abilities to be successful graduate students, clinicians and scientists" (CGPCSD Resolution 96-1).

The information we obtained about student assessments and about admissions to graduate school raised questions about the reliability and validity of the most frequently used measures (GPA, GRE scores, faculty recommendations) as the best predictors of "success." Thus, as stated in our April 4, 1997 Progress Report and presented at the Annual Council meeting in Savannah, we offer the following recommendation:

RECOMMENDATION 2: We recommend that the Council conduct a predictive study to define the best indicators of "success" and particularly excellent clinical competence. The investigation should be designed to identify "critical variables" to consider in the admission process. The Council may also wish to conduct a follow-up study with "successful" graduate students to identify those variables that are predictive of career satisfaction.


After careful consideration of the information we had received as of April, 1998, our group had decided to formulate three models based on the desired goal of individual undergraduate programs. Specifically

Sixty-one returns of the three-item questionnaire were received at the Councilís Annual meeting in Palm Springs. An additional 87 responses were received in a follow-up e-mail survey for a total of 148 responses. Six programs offer no undergraduate programs. Seventy of the 148 programs reported they offer undergraduate practica, with clock hours accrued ranging from 10 to 225. These data are congruent with the range and mean number of practicum hours obtained by undergraduate students reported in the 1996-97 Council Survey ( Table 40, p. 51); a range of 0 to 600 clock hours and a mean of 81.6 was reported in 1996-97. These data suggest that a substantial number of undergraduate programs are pre-professional. Further, data revealed that human communication arts and sciences programs with a liberal arts focus are virtually nonexistent. Seven programs (5%) defined themselves as general education and 22 (15%) disciplinary with no practicum. Forty-three programs (29%) called themselves pre-professional but offer no practicum. Therefore our group modified our plan and offer the following two models.



Goal: To provide a basic undergraduate degree that will enable students to enter any profession.

The field of Human Communication Sciences seeks to understand normal and disordered communication. Scientific advances become the basis for clinical prevention and treatment programs for disorders of human communication. In turn, clinical observations may raise new questions that require scientific study.

Human Communication Sciences involves study of the basic fundamentals of human communication and also investigation of the problems that remain, as yet, unsolved. The student in this field learns about the basic anatomy and physiology of hearing, speech, vision, and cortical processing. The development of normal, adult communication in all these areas is studied as well as the impact of anatomical, physiological, and environmental factors on development and function. Relevant environmental factors that are considered include diseases, exposure to toxic agents (including noise and drugs), nutrition, as well as language stimulation, education experiences, and interpersonal interactions.

This is an interdisciplinary field. For certain areas, a solid understanding of biology and neurophysiology is needed. Other aspects relate closely to experimental psychology (e.g., psychoacoustics, speech perception, learning, memory, and problem solving). The language-oriented emphases closely related to the field of linguistics and psycholinguistics.

The Human Communication Sciences are part of both the life sciences and the social sciences. The field is gaining increased importance in the general area of the health sciences for reasons that pertain, in part, to the changing characteristics of the human population. When life expectancy was shorter than at present, greatest emphasis in the health sciences was placed on extending longevity and combating specific diseases and illnesses. Major medical advances have taken place, more handicapped infants survive, life expectancy has increased rapidly, and consequently, greater attention is now being given to the quality of life at all ages. Communication with others is a critically important aspect of the quality of life and, hence, it is receiving increased attention.

A concentration in this field can lead to a variety of future careers. Some of these careers may be entered immediately after obtaining the baccalaureate degree. For example, some jobs are available in research laboratories, industry, and in local, state, and Federal government offices for people with this background. Many who concentrate in Human Communication Sciences expect to continue their education after the baccalaureate by entering medical school, dental school, law school, or graduate school in neuroscience or psychology, audiology and hearing sciences or speech-language pathology, linguistics, learning disabilities. Students who seek a broad liberal arts undergraduate education, with emphasis in the life sciences, find this program of study especially appealing.

Courses in this major may include:

Processes and Pathologies of Human Communication

Biological Foundations of Human Communication

Acoustics of Speech

Language Development



Introduction to Learning Disabilities

Anatomy and Physiology of the Speech and Hearing Mechanism

Introduction to Research Methods


Brain and Cognition

Developmental Auditory Perception

Introduction to Psychoacoustics

Neurology of Speech and Language

Vocal Physiology and Pathology



Goal: To prepare students to be speech-language pathologists and audiologists by providing the undergraduate foundation needed to pursue a graduate program of advanced study in communication sciences and disorders.

Communication Sciences and Disorders is an interdisciplinary behavioral science devoted to the study of normal and disordered human communication. Speech-language pathology and audiology are helping professions built upon a solid scientific base. Undergraduates in this field study: 1) psychology in order to learn about people, their normal and atypical growth and development, perception, cognition, memory and related areas; 2) linguistics in order to learn about the structure, form, content and function of language; 3) anatomy, physiology and genetics in order to understand basic sensory and motor processes; 4) articulatory phonetics and acoustics in order to understand sound and its relationship to speech and language; 5) educational methods for affecting change in people; 6) counseling, interpersonal communication skills, and other such areas. Courses in a preprofessional major may include:

Introduction to Psychology

Developmental Psychology

Abnormal Psychology

Psychology of Human Communication

Speech and Hearing Sciences

Anatomy and Physiology


Aural Rehabilitation



Quantitative Methods

Biological Foundations of Learning

Processes and Pathology of Human Communication

Normal and Disordered Articulation and Phonology

Fluency and Fluency Disorders

Voice and Voice Disorders

Language Development and Disorders

Learning Disabilities

History of Education

Service Delivery Systems

Regardless of the goal of the undergraduate program, all undergraduate education should strongly emphasize problem solving. In individual courses and across the curriculum, students should develop skills in collecting data, analyzing and synthesizing relevant information, formulating and testing hypotheses, and reasoning logical actions or solutions to problems. Further, a capstone course is an essential component of a model program. A capstone course is an integrative course, designed to provide a link between a studentís knowledge acquired in general education courses and in major courses. Typically taken during the senior year, students apply information gained from their undergraduate experience to professional and/or scientific problem solving in human communication sciences and disorders. Students demonstrate the ability to use logical reasoning in integrating historical, mathematical, political, scientific, ethical and cultural issues in the evaluation and treatment of persons with communication disorders. Students also demonstrate the ability to communicate their ideas effectively verbally and in writing.