The Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology is a 23 month, full-time, course-based professional Master’s program. It prepares students with knowledge, skills, and professional behaviours to practice as entry level speech-language pathologists. The program uses a problem-based, self-directed learning philosophy. Students will complete course work and clinical practica during their two study years. The program offers students an opportunity to learn in a variety of settings, including clinics, hospitals, schools and homes.
Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) help people with Communication and Swallowing difficulties. SLPs assess, treat and advocate for the prevention of communication and swallowing disorders. Learn more about this important profession from:
The Ontario Council of University Programs in Rehabilitation Sciences (OCUPRS) published the following document describing the essential skills and competencies required for success in completing a university program in speech-language pathology:
How many times do we have to speak or listen to somebody throughout the day? How many times do we have to read or write? If we tally up all of these occurrences, it is clear that we use communication in almost every minute of our work, school and leisure activities.
Communication is a 4x4! In order accomplish the 4 key areas of communication:
We need to use 4 key skills:
SLPs help determine which skills are weak and which aspects of communication are being impacted. Difficulties can affect:
The muscles involved in producing speech and voice are the same ones that are involved in swallowing, which is why SLPs have an important role to play in the assessment and management of swallowing disorders.
Swallowing disorders are often noticed when someone coughs or chokes while eating or drinking. However, sometimes there is no sign of trouble until the person develops pneumonia due to food or drink getting into the lungs. SLPs assess the various stages of swallowing and make recommendations to ensure the person is safe. Sometimes exercises are needed, sometimes food textures and liquid thicknesses need to be modified, sometimes special positioning is needed, and sometimes alternative forms of nutrition have to be implemented. Eating is an important social activity with significant quality of life implications, so the SLP must consider many factors when assessing and treating swallowing difficulties.
The MSc(SLP) program is a course-based, full-time program that is 23-months in duration. The program consists of 5 units of study of required courses with no electives. Clinical placements follow each academic unit and vary in length from 2 weeks following Unit I to 10 weeks following Unit 5. Throughout the program, there will be a total of 29 full-time clinical practicum weeks.
Each Academic Unit includes:
Year 1 - Foundations of SLP Practice course will incorporate online learning modules for self-directed study to provide foundational knowledge in speech, language, and hearing. Modules will provide a means for students with diverse preparation to learn basic concepts, terminology, and methods that will be used throughout the curriculum, and will serve as an ongoing resource for students.
Year 2 – will include a full course on evidence-based practice and clinical research.
Upon successful completion of the MSc(SLP) program, graduates will have achieved the following program learning outcomes:
The philosophy of self-directed learning recognizes that with some guidance, adult learners should be able to take responsibility for their own learning. The more active students are in determining their own needs and learning goals, the more effective their learning is likely to be. Within broad guidelines, MSc SLP students are expected to determine: 1) their own learning needs; 2) how they will best set and achieve objectives to address those needs; 3) how to select learning resources; and 4) whether their learning needs have been met.
An overall goal of self-directed learning is to exercise the student’s capacity to think and discover during the process of gaining knowledge. The MSc (SLP) Program is designed to guide, stimulate, and challenge students in order to produce professionals who will make a difference in practice.
Although the MSc (SLP) Program emphasizes the importance of SDL, it is not a selfpaced program. Attendance and participation in tutorials, clinical laboratories, and other courses is required. It is expected that MSc (SLP) students demonstrate that satisfactory progress has been achieved via self, peer, and faculty evaluation. While the MSc (SLP) Program is student-centred, it is the mutual role and responsibility of faculty and students to create an effective learning environment, to select appropriate learning resources, to effectively facilitate and support learning, and to evaluate the learning process.
Problem-based learning (PBL)* Learning based on problems represents an alternative to lecture-based, didactic instruction. In problem-based learning, students focus on a problem (or situation) that they or the tutorial group has selected. Students bring to the examination of the problem all of their previous knowledge and experience as well as their ability to think rationally and critically.
As the student begins to ask questions, certain issues become well defined and require a search for additional information. After assembling the appropriate information, students synthesize a solution that includes a re-evaluation of the hypothesis (or hypotheses) that has been formed, to confirm or refute it. The student learns how wrestling with any one problem opens up many other questions. Problem-based learning contributes to the student’s motivation; enhances transfer, integration, and retention of information; and encourages curiosity and systematic thinking. Consistent with the PBL philosophy, we select students not only on academic qualifications but also on personal characteristics and abilities, such as problem-solving ability, self-appraisal ability, the ability to relate to others, motivation to study speech-language pathology, and learning styles that are suited for learning at McMaster.
The educational system at McMaster is not ideal for everyone. Some individuals may enjoy working in tutorials, with self-directed and problem-based learning. Others may need or enjoy a more structured environment, and thus prefer a more traditional lecture-based learning environment.
* Adapted from McMaster University School of Medicine
Small-Group Learning. Small-group learning is a natural extension of problem-based learning. To maximize small-group learning, we believe it is important to bring students from various educational and work experience backgrounds together so that the heterogeneity of the group itself becomes a valuable learning resource. Transfer of knowledge is enhanced through the use of problems that encourage students to not only learn content, but also to develop strategies to recognize the ‘analogy' or ‘principle' that can then be transferred to new problems and contexts.
Travel may be required for program-related activities and courses, including, but not limited to, the following:
Evening and/or weekend hours may be required during the course of the academic program, including clinical practica.
Unit 1: Fundamentals of Clinical Practice I: Principles, Knowledge, and Skills for Clinical Practice
OVERVIEW: The aim of this unit is to provide students with foundational knowledge related to communication and communication disorders across the lifespan as well as basic skills in clinical practice. Principles include professional ethics, models of disability, inter- professional practice, and evidence-based practice. Knowledge outcomes include anatomy and physiology; psychology and linguistics in the context of communication across the lifespan; and basic constructs in articulation, phonology, and language development. Students develop a framework and basic skills for assessment, intervention, and professional conduct. Within Unit 1, students will complete simulated clinical practicum experiences and a 2-week off-site clinical practicum focused on observation.
Unit 2: Fundamentals of Clinical Practice II: Roles and Practice Settings Across the Lifespan
OVERVIEW: The aim of this unit is to further develop students’ foundational knowledge and skills and to introduce them to varied contexts of speech-language pathology practice. Knowledge and skill outcomes address professional performance as a direct service provider, consultant, collaborator and team member, manager and supervisor, and advocate. Settings include children’s treatment centers, early childhood centers, schools, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, home healthcare, long-term care facilities, and private community- based practice. Within Unit 2, students will continue to learn via simulated clinical experiences. Then, following the academic portion of Unit 2, students will complete a 5- week off-site clinical practicum focused on evidence-based practice. Knowledge outcomes include fundamentals of counseling, speech perception and acoustics, and instrumentation.
In Unit 2, students will obtain the first 10 of their 20 required clinical hours in Audiology, with the goal of gaining an appreciation of audiology and aural rehabilitation. Hours will be obtained in part through development and implementation of free hearing screenings in the community, under the supervision of a licensed Audiologist. This experience will introduce students to hearing assessment and referral, and communication strategies for individuals with hearing loss and their communication partners. Knowledge outcomes include assessment and intervention related to hearing disorders, as well as strategies for prevention of hearing loss.
Unit 3: Clinical Practice with Children, Youth, & Young Adults
OVERVIEW: The aim of this unit is to introduce students to developmental communication disorders. Knowledge outcomes relate to developmental articulation, phonological, and language disorders; speech and language impairments associated with cognitive disabilities, and voice and fluency disorders. Students also will build on knowledge outcomes related to hearing disorders, this time in the context of young children, and will explore genetic influences on communication. Key themes of Unit 3 are family-centered service, service delivery models for children, and transition to adulthood. Following Unit 3, students will complete a 6-week off-site clinical practicum that may be in a school, community, hospital, rehabilitation, or role-emerging setting (i.e., a setting in which there is potential to promote community engagement and develop SLP services in a non-traditional venue).
Unit 4: Clinical Practice with Adults and Older Adults
OVERVIEW: This unit emphasizes assessment and treatment of individuals with acquired communication disorders, with a special emphasis on problems of older adults. Knowledge outcomes relate to acquired speech, language, and cognitive disorders, with a focus on neurologically based communication disorders; dysphagia in adults; and normal aging of speech, hearing, and language. Students will build further on knowledge outcomes related to hearing disorders and aural rehabilitation, this time in contexts relevant to older adults. Following Unit 4, students will complete a 6-week off-site clinical practicum that may be in a community, hospital, rehabilitation, or role-emerging setting.
Unit 5: Complex Practice and Professional Transition
OVERVIEW: The aim of this unit is to prepare students for the transition to professional practice. This advanced unit provides students with knowledge and skills to assume current and emergent health care roles in the community, with an emphasis on complex conditions across the lifespan. With respect to children, knowledge outcomes relate to populations with multiple or complex disabilities, advanced hearing technology (e.g., cochlear implants) and aural rehabilitation, augmentative and alternative communication, and pediatric dysphagia. With respect to adults, key themes of Unit 5 are client-centered service, end-of-life decisions, chronic health conditions and aging with a communication disorder, and communication partner training. Medical intervention and pharmacology will be considered for both children and adults. Following Unit 5, students will complete a 10-week off-site clinical practicum that may be in a community, hospital, rehabilitation, or role-emerging setting.
Travel may be required for program-related activities and courses, including, but not limited to, the following:
Evening and/or weekend hours may be required during the course of the academic program, including clinical practica.
Unit 1 Courses
SPEECH711/Problem-based Tutorial I
This Unit I tutorial course will introduce students to fundamental knowledge related to communication and communication disorders across the lifespan as well as basic skills in clinical practice. Psychosocial, cultural, and ethical influences on clinical practice will be addressed.
SPEECH712/Clinical Skills Lab I
The Unit I Clinical Skills course develops basic skills for observing and recording speech and language, communicating with individuals with communication disorders, and professional conduct. Clinical reasoning and technical skill development are integrated with relevant research evidence and theory. The course includes exposure to typically-developing children and adults, simulated clinical interactions, and a 2-week off-site observational experience that will be offered across a range of clinical settings.
SPEECH713/Foundational Knowledge I
This first-year course will address foundational knowledge for the speech-language pathologist. Topics include anatomy and physiology; neuroanatomy and neurophysiology; development of articulation, phonology, and language; and psychology and linguistics in the context of communication.
SPEECH714/Inquiry Seminar I
This course will provide a forum for introducing topics related to the theory and principles that underlie clinical practice in speech-language pathology, including theories of language acquisition and speech production; theories and models of disability; exploring the perspectives of people with disabilities; interprofessional practice; and evidence-based practice
Unit 2 Courses
SPEECH721/Problem-based Tutorial II
This Unit II tutorial course will further develop students’ fundamental knowledge and skills and provide an overview of roles and contexts relevant to speech-language pathology practice in diverse settings and across the lifespan.
SPEECH722/Clinical Skills Lab II
This Unit II clinical skills course further develops skills in screening and assessment, including hearing screening and hearing conservation, and introduces skills in outcome evaluation and reporting. Simulated clinical experiences will provide a context for learning fundamentals of counseling. Clinical reasoning and technical skill development are integrated with relevant research evidence and theory.
SPEECH723/Foundational Knowledge II
This Unit II course will address foundational knowledge related to speech perception and acoustics, and instrumentation related to assessment and intervention.
SPEECH724/Inquiry Seminar II
This course will provide a forum for discussing topics related to the theory and principles underlying clinical practice in speech-language pathology across settings and populations, including models and frameworks for assessment and intervention; principles of measurement related to conducting clinical assessments; fundamental knowledge related to working with individuals who have hearing disorders; perspectives of individuals with communication disorders and their families/caretakers; professional ethics; and evidence-based practice.
SPEECH725/Clinical Practice I
Students will complete a 5-week full-time clinical practicum experience focused on evidence-based practice. Clinical settings may include hospitals, school boards, children’s treatment centres, preschool services, home care, and private practices.
Unit 3 Courses
SPEECH731/Problem-based Tutorial III
This Unit III tutorial course will introduce students to screening, assessment, and treatment issues related to developmental communication disorders, including speech, language, voice, fluency, hearing, and cognitive-communication disorders in children, youth, and young adults.
SPEECH732/Clinical Skills Lab III
This Unit III clinical skills course will provide students with the clinical problem solving skills to assess and treat children with communication disorders, including developing skills needed to differentiate language differences associated with multilingualism from language disorders associated with underlying impairments. Students will use appropriate assessment tools and clinical processes to set goals for intervention. Clinical reasoning and technical skill development are integrated with relevant research evidence and theory.
SPEECH733/Foundational Knowledge III
This first-year course will address foundational knowledge for the speech-language pathologist. Topics will build on those addressed in 613 and 623 and will include foundations of genetics in relation to communication disorders.
SPEECH734/Inquiry Seminar III
This course will provide a forum for considering topics related to the clinical practice with children, including family-centered service, service delivery models, and transition to adulthood.
SPEECH735/Clinical Practice II
Students will complete a 6-week clinical practicum experience in a school, community, hospital, rehabilitation, or role-emerging setting.
Unit 4 Courses
SPEECH741/Problem-based Tutorial IV
This Unit IV tutorial course will introduce students to screening, assessment, and treatment issues related to adults, with a special emphasis on acquired speech, language, voice, swallowing, or hearing disorders, and aging with a communication disorder.
SPEECH742/Clinical Skills Lab IV
This Unit IV clinical skills course will provide students with opportunities to develop advanced clinical reasoning skills necessary to assess and treat individuals with acquired communication or swallowing disorders, with a focus on neurological disorders and differentiating communication disorders from normal aging. Students will use appropriate assessment tools and clinical processes to set goals for intervention. Clinical reasoning and technical skill development are integrated with relevant research evidence and theory.
SPEECH743/Evidence-based Practice and Clinical Research
This 2nd year course over two terms will enable students to critically analyze the literature and collaborate on a research project relevant to speech-language pathology. During the first term of this course, students will be provided with information on study design, data acquisition, and data analysis. They will acquire skills in searching the literature, analyzing and interpreting data, presenting results and making clinical decisions that incorporate best evidence, patient values and clinical expertise. During the second term of the course, students will work in teams to participate in an ongoing research project under the supervision of a faculty member or clinician.
SPEECH744/Inquiry Seminar IV
This course will provide a forum for considering topics related to clinical practice with adults, such as client-centered service, caregiver training, end-of-life services, and innovative service delivery models for older adults.
SPEECH745/Clinical Practice III
Students will complete a 6-week clinical practicum experience in a community, hospital, rehabilitation, or role-emerging setting.
Unit 5 Courses
SPEECH751/Problem-based Tutorial V
This Unit V tutorial course will provide students the opportunity to explore clinical practice with clients of all ages who have complex health conditions for which multiple systems and a range of health care issues are likely to be involved. Knowledge outcomes include frameworks for medical intervention, and foundations in pharmacology. Students are expected to use both previous and new knowledge when planning assessment and intervention.
SPEECH752/Clinical Skills Lab V
This Unit V clinical laboratory course will provide students with advanced skills that will enable them to assume traditional and emerging roles in clinical practice. Students will acquire the skills needed to assess and manage clients with complex health conditions that involve multiple systems and a range of health care issues, including skills related to Augmentative and Alternative Communication, advanced hearing technology, aural rehabilitation, assessment and treatment of swallowing in children with complex medical conditions, and assessment and treatment of children with resonance disorders.
SPEECH753/Inquiry Seminar V
The focus of this course will be on providing students with the opportunity to examine current issues within the speech-language pathology profession, including the diverse roles of the SLP in the health and education systems, aging and end-of life decisions, and living with a chronic health condition. Students will also learn management and business skills that will prepare them for the transition to practice upon graduation.
SPEECH754/Clinical Practice IV
Students will complete a 10-week clinical practicum experience in a community, hospital, rehabilitation, or role-emerging setting.
Some of the student evaluation methods and tools used in the MSc (SLP) Program include:
Tutorial performance of the group as a whole and of each of its members (including the tutor) is evaluated on a regular basis throughout each unit. The final student grade is based on knowledge, use of learning resources, group participation and facilitation, critical appraisal skills, professional behaviours and evaluation skills (i.e., self-assessment, peer-assessment, and tutor evaluation).
Written exams using multiple choice questions (MCQs) or a short answer format are used to assess knowledge.
Modified essay questions (MEQs) are designed to assess aspects of clinical reasoning and problem-solving using a paper problem as a stimulus. The MEQ presents the student with progressive amounts of information about a practice problem in a sequence predetermined by the examiner. At successive stages, the student responds to the information and is asked to make and explain his/her decisions.
Essays are used to evaluate knowledge, critical appraisal skills, critical thinking, analysis, and synthesis skills. The essay tests the understanding of principles or relationships, and fosters independent thinking and learning. Furthermore, it is used to develop and evaluate writing skills. Essays are assessed on content, organization, style, and mechanics. A problem write-up which focuses on a particular case scenario/client problem is a variation of the traditional essay.
Direct Observation is used primarily to evaluate technical/behavioural skills. This type of practical examination might be used to evaluate interviewing skills, assessment techniques, and/or use of therapeutic interventions.
Objective and Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) is an objective evaluation measure used to assess components of clinical competence. It has the potential for testing a wide range of knowledge and clinical skills, and can be utilized to evaluate a large number of students during one examination period. The OSCE can be used as a formative or summative measure of student performance and also provides valuable feedback to faculty for the purpose of curriculum revision.
The OSCE is structured in such a way as to sample student performance in a variety of areas and to make maximum use of the time available. Students rotate around a series of timed stations. There may be up to 10 stations of 5 or 10 minutes in duration. At each station, students are asked to perform a specific task such as taking a patient history, performing an assessment task, teaching/counselling/advising a patient, writing a report, charting, performing a treatment technique or other clinical procedure, and interpreting findings such as test results. Examiner stations, where an observer is asked to score a student’s performance, usually entail interaction with a standardized patient. Marker stations, where a student is asked to answer written questions, record findings or interpret patient data, do not require an observer but entail subsequent marking.
Evaluation criteria are determined in advance on the basis of course objectives and student learning activities. A standardized rating form is used for evaluation by the examiners. Safety and professionalism are included within the evaluative criteria.
Presentations are also used throughout the program. A health care professional must be able to articulate and defend an opinion or position, and, to present information and ideas in an organized and clear manner. To help the students develop these skills, individual and group presentations are used as evaluation components in most units.
Learning contracts are used to evaluate student performance during clinical placement experiences and for remedial work. The use of a learning contract reinforces the student’s role as an active participant in the process of learning, rather than a passive recipient. In the professional preparation setting, learning contracts allow the student to meet the program objectives and also to pursue individual objectives. The learning contract is a document comprised of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) goals and is developed by the student and approved by a faculty member. It specifies what the student will learn, how this will be accomplished, within what time frame, and what specific evaluation criteria will be used for each objective. The learning contract reconciles the "imposed" requirements of the program with the learner's own personal goals and objectives. It enables the student to choose his/her own way of achieving the objectives and to self-evaluate the progress towards achieving them.
As a new program offering within McMaster’s School of Rehabilitation Science, the MSc (SLP) program will undergo accreditation review by the Council for Accreditation of Canadian University Programs in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology in the first 2 years of activity.
When will the SLP program become Accredited?
In accordance with guidelines from the Council for Accreditation of Canadian University Programs in Speech-Language Pathology (CACUP), we will be applying for Candidacy prior to graduation of the first cohort of students. Students graduating from a Candidate program are entitled to register to practice in Ontario. We have designed the program to meet national standards for accreditation and provincial standards for registration and licensure in Ontario, so we expect that the program will receive Candidate status. As required by CACUP, within three years, the program will apply for Accreditation.
All SLPs in Canada must be registered with the appropriate provincial regulatory body to practice in that province. Each regulatory body has a separate and distinct registration process; however, in all circumstances, a degree in Speech-Language Pathology is required.
Please visit the College of Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists of Ontario for further information.
Speech-Language Pathology Program
McMaster University School of Rehabilitation Science
Institute for Applied Health Sciences (IAHS), Room 402
1400 Main Street West, Hamilton, ON L8S 1C7
T: 905-525-9140 ext. 27344