Have you ever wondered why some students love coming to sessions and others resist? Do you sometimes feel treatment might not seem important or relevant to them? Perhaps some students you serve don’t understand why they see you. I’ve been there and decided to simply ask students these and other questions. And I got the answers—and more! Children, like adults, love to share their opinions, expectations and recommendations.
I often see assumed reasons cited for inadequate progress in school services, which include lack of motivation, limited student engagement, and goals not resulting in improved functional communication in class. In today’s service-delivery market, consumers exert more and more pressure by telling hospitals, schools, universities and businesses the type and quality of services they want and expect. Consumer satisfaction surveys and evaluations allow administrators and practitioners to gain insight into specific steps an organization can take to improve performance, services and outcomes to meet consumers’ expectations.
Schools and speech-language pathology programs can benefit from this evaluation process. In schools, our consumer base includes parents, administrators, teachers, funding agencies—and students. Educational research reports students feel a stronger connection to schools that welcome their contributions—and these stronger connections can ultimately result in improved student performance. Listening to students’ thoughts and opinions about their speech-language experiences can lead to positive change. In addition to boosting their own academic and functional communication performance, student feedback might potentially benefit the focus of the district’s entire speech-language program.
Why not take the information we gain from a student survey and use it to make our programs and services more relevant and tuned to students’ interests and desired outcomes? This is exactly what I set out to do. I collaborated with my colleague, Jean Blosser to create a Student Satisfaction Survey to measure the opinions of a group of students receiving speech-language intervention in fall 2016 and spring 2017. I solicited additional comments and feedback by questioning students about items they rated as less satisfactory. I then used responses to tweak and modify aspects of services that students indicated were less satisfying.
Some programmatic changes included:
- Creating a parent newsletter to share information about the speech-language program with families.
- Posting students’ learning targets in the treatment area to help students know the purpose of their daily sessions.
- Measuring and posting students’ progress on individual goals, so they could see their increasing growth.
Each modification addressed an area of lower satisfaction from the students surveyed. A review of data collected from students twice within the same academic year revealed an impressive increase in overall satisfaction from 85 percent in the fall to 95 percent in the spring. In addition, 81 percent showed an increase in their satisfaction or indicated maximum satisfaction level at the end of the school year. And 100 percent showed a satisfaction level of at least 86 percent or grreater!
Clearly, the survey allowed students to feel invested in their treatment. They also realized I addressed their concerns through program changes. I was the clinician providing treatment to these students, and one of my favorite results was an increase in the number of students who showed mastery of their targeted skill sets on their Individualized Education Programs and an increase in their overall articulation or language skills.
Typically, an average of 10 to 12 students get dismissed from treatment yearly due to mastery of skills. At the end of the 2017 school year, 20 students no longer needed my services. Did this improvement happen because students saw their feedback was valued and so invested themselves more into sessions? We’d like to think so. Survey your students’ satisfaction and try it out for yourself.
Lynda Park, MA, CCC-SLP, works for West Holmes Local Schools in rural Holmes County, Ohio. She’s served elementary-aged students for 20 years in this district. firstname.lastname@example.org
Jean Blosser, EdD, CCC-SLP, creates systems to help SLPs and educators provide outcomes-based, educationally relevant services. As president of Creative Strategies for Special Education, she consults and provides interactive workshops for schools, universities and associations. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 1, Language Learning and Education, 10, Issues In Higher Education, 11, Administration and Supervision, 16, School-Based Issues, and 18, Telepractice. Jblosser23@gmail.com