Griffith helps raise children’s language and literacy skills

Helping to raise Logan children’s language and literacy skills during the early prep years has been the focus of a new collaboration between a group of Griffith University Master
of Speech Pathology students and Education Queensland (EQ).

Speech Pathology Week 2013 is coming up 25-31 August, and aims to raise awareness of the more than 1.1 million Australians who have difficulty communicating. Twenty per
cent of four-year-old children have difficulty understanding or using language, putting these children at risk for lifelong language and literacy difficulties.

As part of PrepSTART – a classroom-based language and literacy program developed by speech pathologists from EQ with input from Griffith – nine students have been volunteering their time to measure the effectiveness of the initiative.

Three schools in  Logan 

Run across three schools in the Logan area – Berrinba East State School, Burrowes State School and Woodridge State School – the program is focussing on prep students from many culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, with a high percentage of its students identifying as Pacific Islander.

Master of Speech Pathology student Karen May was involved in initial assessments of the prep students during the early stages of the program. “I was involved in assessing for language difficulties and understanding of language among the children, using methods such as picture naming, identifying sounds in words and storytelling.

“In this way, we would be able to help provide a baseline from which issues would be addressed and which would then enable the school to target their teaching programs.”

Karen says the program also provided a great opportunity for her learning as a student. “I was able to see first-hand, how a program like this can have such a great benefit for these
children. I was already halfway through my Masters at the time and it was great to see the connections between what we learn in lectures and how this translates to children’s real-life issues. I gained a lot of confidence and validation for what I do as a result of being a part of the program.”

The PrepSTART program has also enabled opportunity for ongoing research collaboration between Griffith University and Education Queensland.

“This research explores a non-traditional workplace-based learning model in which students volunteer their services in an educational setting,” says Griffith researcher and senior lecturer Dr Marleen Westerveld. “Without speech pathology students volunteering their services there would be no resources available to assess individual prep students on oral language and literacy-related skills.

Building capacity within the educational setting

“This project has helped to build capacity of the educational setting to more vigorously evaluate the effectiveness of curriculum delivery within these schools, and it is hoped that
this program can, with further funding, be extended to more schools within the region.”

“Not only have we been fortunate enough to have additional speech language pathologist time through the National Partnership Project initiative but in addition we have received
invaluable support from Griffith,” says Mr Tony Maksoud, principal of Berrinba East State School.

“Master of Speech Pathology students from Griffith have been a key part of the project’s success; they volunteered their time to support the data collection from over 200 students.
“Our schools recognise the unique contribution that speech pathologists can provide to our students’ literacy learning and it is early intervention that is the key. Working closely with our talented teachers and teacher aides, the EQ speech pathologists have designed an early intervention program that aims to accelerate our students’ progress and set them up for success throughout their schooling.”