Program Overview

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.

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 8-9 weeks following Unit 5. Throughout the program, there will be a total of 28-29 full-time clinical practicum weeks. Additional half-to-full day audiology placements occur throughout academic blocks in Units 2-4 to supplement audiology hours as needed. 

Each Academic Unit includes:

  • A problem-based tutorial course;
  • A clinical skills course;
  • A foundational course;
  • A seminar course (Units I-III) or an evidence-based practice course (Units IV-V); and
  • A practicum experience.
Click here for a handout showing the content that is taught across courses and units.

Educational Frameworks

The Speech-Language Pathology Program within the School of Rehabilitation Science uses two distinct educational frameworks, Self-Directed Learning and Problem-Based Learning

To learn more about these educational frameworks read the dedicated paragraphs below.

Educational Frameworks

Self-Directed Learning

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 self-paced 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

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

Click here to see what tutors say about PBL

Methods of Evaluation

The Speech-Language Pathology Program uses a variety of different evaluation methods to assess our students throughout their academic careers.  A list of possible methods of evaluation and an overview of what each method entails can be found below. To learn more about each evaluation type, click the titles to expand the tiles for more information. 

Tutorial Performance
Written Exams
Objective and Structured Clinical Examination
Placement Performance

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the MSc(SLP) program, graduates will have achieved the following program learning outcomes:

  • Have a systematic understanding of human communication and swallowing and their disorders across the lifespan, including key theoretical approaches and concepts that inform our understanding of human communication and swallowing in health and disease.
  • Understand the influence of health, economic, educational, social, and cultural factors on communication and swallowing across the lifespan and in health and disease.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of and critically evaluate published qualitative and quantitative research, and identify gaps in knowledge and research methods to address those gaps.
  • Apply knowledge, critical thinking, and problem solving skills to solve complex clinical problems.
  • Engage in evidence-informed practice to provide efficient and effective client and patient care.
  • Communicate effectively with patients, families, other health providers, community organizations, and colleagues; as a leading member of a team, collaborator, advocate, and representative of the profession.
  • Understand the limitations of his or her own knowledge and recognize the value of other perspectives, methods, and disciplines.
  • Be self-directed learners and reflective practitioners: identify areas for personal growth in knowledge and skills and develop plans to achieve that growth.
  • Can work autonomously and collaboratively across practice flexible and adaptable in changing healthcare contexts.
  • Meet professional standards for integrity and ethical conduct.
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