ASHA Philosophy of Curriculum Turned Upside Down. 2

Search for Causes

Under the leadership of Dr. Fred Spahr, Director, ASHA in the 1990s sought to re-organize governance as a result of various complaints about efficiency and communication.  Dr. Spahr took the lead in addressing issues of change to the profession.

The Colloquy of 1994

In 1994 ASHA sponsored and held a pivotal three-day colloquy: “Blueprint for a New Academic Agenda.” Included were 50 trusted invited participants who provided lectures, ideas, organizational perspectives and commentary. The program agenda listed “…external and internal influences that are changing our professional environment…” Goals to implement outcomes were presented. ASHA president, Dr. Jeri Logemann, was a prime mover. She spoke on current practice issues. ASHA director Dr. Fred Spahr delivered a key paper on the challenges facing the profession.

The tone of the conference was urgency. Changes impacting ASHA were coming from all directions. Decision-makers in higher education and clinical practice were feeling pressures. National health care reform was impacting training programs. Academic administrators questioned costs. Technology was coming.

Working SLPs and audiologists faced expanding scopes of practice. They needed special new skills required for health-care and school settings. Employers complained SLPs were not ready upon graduation. SLPs cost too much to employ and they were inflexible in their work contributions. They should be able to handle a wider scopes of practice to cover emerging clinical issues.

Barriers blocking change stood in the way. Academic training models were behind the times. Costs prevented program innovations. Deans were reluctant to approve binding accreditation requirements. Faculty resisted change.  Denial was a problem. Faculty need to be re-oriented.

Many attendees were ASHA employees and officers.  There must be follow-through plans adopted to ensure policy redirection. A document was created to “provide guidance to ASHA.” The current record shows the New Agenda  was followed until now, 2015.

The colloquy was not widely publicized nor approved by the Legislative Council.

Leadership Position

Dr. Spahr’s paper was central to the new agenda. He took a business orientation for ASHA’s future, deferring to employer evaluations as to the deficiencies of SLP graduates.

Employers were dissatisfied with SLP “products.” They were unprepared for immediate service. There were signs employers wanted to train their own SLPs, particular in medical settings. SLPs should be trained to understand costs and performance requirements.

Dr. Spahr was concerned competitors could take over licensing SLPs. “We should not make the mistake of believing that our professional services will be worth more in the market as a result of specialization.” SLPs do not have to be experts; they need to deliver the services expected. SLPs were pushing back on the assignments and needed to be collaborative.

Academic programs must contribute “…professionals capable of delivering services to meet the needs of today’s consumers (patients, students, clients) of our services.” Perhaps employers should be involved in helping form program training goals. “What steps in the program to determine what is needed in the product (student) of the program in the future?”

Curriculum must be reshaped. Simply taking courses is not enough.  “Employers want value-added professionals. They want professionals whose scopes of practice are wide and flexible.”

“Our education and training programs must ensure the relevance of course instruction to the workplace.”

Department administrators have a difficult time changing faculty approaches.

Status Quo Position

Dr. Spahr made no effort to point out the successes of the traditional academic model. Nor was there anyone placed on the program to do so. One could have said course and clinic based procedures plus research opportunities, professional supervision and individualized study held up well for 70 years. Participants at the meeting were educated according to traditional standards but they did not speak up to defend it.  The New Agenda moved forward.

Major successes were skipped over to make the argument against the status quo.

1. Language as a major area of study had emerged and was spreading around the nation. When Dr. Spahr retired he acknowledged language had been an important bridge to other areas of disability, such as learning disabilities. In 1978 ASHA added the word Language to the Association name. Students were required to take language courses growing in sophistication. Students from other departments took language courses promoting interdisciplinary ties.  A productive era of new research findings was witnessed.

2. There was no mention of the continued growth of ASHA as a wealthy national organization with a large capable staff and suitable headquarters in Washington, D. C. More and more academic units were applying for accreditation and the accreditation list was growing. Member volunteers filled the ranks of administrative programs. A public relations department was established along with continuing education offerings. ASHA lobbied Congress. Growth rate was predictably strong. ASHA had the size and means to combat employer complaints utilizing appropriate public relations campaigns.

3. The Spahr argument excluded remarks on the great success of school SLPs. School SLPs had overcome radical changes in practice by way of federal IDEA legislation and were in high demand for employment. Their numbers were growing and school SLPs were injecting fresh money into the ASHA coffers from several sources. ASHA was becoming a wealthy professional organization fully capable of setting the agenda for status quo programs.  By 2005 the ASHA membership continued to grow, according to CEO Pietranton (100,000 SLPs; 13,000 Audiologists; 2,000 Speech and Hearing Scientists)

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