Experiencing the Communication Sciences and Disorders Graduate Curriculum

Karen McComas [mccomas (at) marshall (dot) edu]
Jenna D. Rollins [rollins26 (at) marshall (dot) edu]


It is a requirement for graduate programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders to become accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA) of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). According to Standard 5.3 of the Standards for Accreditation of Graduate Education Programs in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology, a graduate program must:

document … the process by which it engages in systematic self study…The program collects and evaluates data on its effectiveness from multiple sources (e.g., students, alumni, faculty…etc.)…The data must include students’ and graduates’ evaluations of courses and clinical education…Results of the assessments must be used to plan and implement program improvements. (pg. 2)

Hence, CSD programs require increased student involvement with regard to program review and accreditation.

According to Hatfield (2001), self-studies reveal differences between the intended curriculum and the enacted curriculum. Additionally, students have “qualitatively different learning experiences depending on the instructor and elective path that they take through the curriculum” (Hatfield, p. 26). Therefore, in order for CSD programs to develop an appropriate graduate curriculum, it is essential to know just how students have experienced that curriculum. Thus, one way to gain an understanding of those experiences is to observe and interview them in their natural environment (van Manen, 1990).

Purpose of Study

The purpose of this study is to gather data to develop a greater understanding of the essence of the graduate student experience with the curriculum. By engaging in this study, I seek to better understand:

  1. What does it mean to be a graduate student in a CSD program?
  2. How have graduate students experienced the curriculum in their CSD programs?

The findings of this study should be of interest to other CSD programs seeking to obtain or maintain program accreditation and engaging in self-study for those purposes.