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European Innovative Teaching Award
Project

Speech and Language Pathology Interactive Tools for Teachers at Initial Education

School: Leonardo da Vinci First Private School

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Topic(s) addressed

The project for speech and language pathology aimed to create an online tool for kindergarten and primary school teachers in the early recognition of language pathology in order to: increase education opportunities for children with speech and language difficulties using tools for the early recognition of speech pathology; intervene at the earliest stages of speech and language development through free and appropriate support tests and materials; assist children in their education and personal development through the use of a mobile application; and develop exercises and a test to check speech, language skills, and potential disorders.

Target groups

The project’s target groups were kindergarten and pre-primary schoolteachers, primary school teachers, psychological consultants, speech and language therapists/logopedists, and special education teachers. These target groups were chosen, as they are most involved in daily interactions with children and would therefore most quickly notice difficulties in children’s speech and language development. The project’s beneficiaries consisted of children with disabilities, their parents, NGOs, and institutions working in the field of children's education, including education authorities and social centres. The total number of beneficiaries was 1840; 920 participants were involved in the project’s first stage, with this figure having doubled by the second stage. Beneficiaries included kindergarten and primary school teachers, psychologists, speech therapists, pedagogical advisers, resource teachers, assistant teachers, educators, parents, kindergarten and primary school students, representatives of non-governmental organisations, and National Advisory Boards.

Methodologies

A survey was conducted with 192 special educators, speech therapists and pedagogical advisers, 236 teachers, and 85 parents from partner countries, with more than 500 people having shared their experiences and expectations during IO1 and IO2’s initial research and development phases. Survey forms were distributed and data collected, processed, and summarised in IO1. However, the full number of beneficiaries was reached in the project’s subsequent stages (during the development of IO3 and IO4) – particularly during the pilot testing of results, when 117 kindergarten and primary school teachers participated in the pilot phase. Project results were tested with 215 children who had language/speech difficulties or speech disorders. Representatives from all target groups were present at the 3 events developed for the results’ dissemination (2 in the UK and Bulgaria and 1 virtual – involving 180 participants). Additionally, during the COVID-19 pandemic, all partners implemented various forms of online presentations, resulting in an increase in the number of project participants by more than 300 new individuals from various partner countries. The project’s use of ICT technologies included the following online tools:

  1. A Mobile Assessment App that determined patterns in articulation abilities, and which guided teachers on phonemes that were not being accurately produced. The app’s results were displayed so as to easily identify phonemes that needed to be targeted via speech therapy. Results were displayed in a format that enabled easy pattern identification through i. manner, ii. phonemes, iii. word positioning, iv. voice features, and v. types of error (substitution, deletion, distortion).
  2. Practical exercises (following the teacher’s assessment of the child through the use of tests) that enabled them to immediately identify phonemes that needed to be addressed and practised. Flashcards, although once useful, are now largely regarded as being obsolete, with today’s speech therapists and parents preferring the use of “e-flashcards,” which allow them to collect data and practise speech sounds, without the fear of losing cards, or the risk of general wear-and-tear.
  3. Gamification aspect (inclusive of pictured images with voice recordings). The game’s use by parents, teachers, and speech therapists as a group activity enabled vocabulary learning, the development of articulation skills, and exercises on phonemic awareness. The methodologies used during the creation of intellectual outputs included face-to-face meetings, brainstorming activities, state-of-the-art learning, desktop research, surveys, interviews, comparative analyses, research, national advisory board meetings, story-boarding, interactive and inclusive designing, iterative testing, group working, usability evaluation, observation, programme piloting, and the correction of problematic issues.

Environments

The project consortium also designed an online speech and language therapy tool that included various tests with fun activities for children such as games, flashcards, and worksheets that allowed for the pre-assessment of both speech and language disorders. Tests were used by both kindergarten and primary school teachers to determine what was being said by the child, with a final score provided at the end of the test, which was calculated using established and accepted scientific/pedagogic tests for speech and language pathology. In the event that the child did not pass the test due to insufficient scores, teachers would then inform the school’s psychological consultant, who communicated the child’s need for extra-curricular speech lessons and activities to their parents. Interactive and multi-functional intervention materials for speech and language therapy were designed in 6 languages, with the tool being available on the Internet and downloadable from Google Play and the App Store, so as to enable easy access for kindergarten and primary school teachers, as well as parents and caretakers. These resources aimed to develop and support students’ language skills (grammar, syntax, vocabulary, phonology, and narration) across various age groups (from 4 to 10). The project also increased awareness among the general public on speech and language disorders, with results disseminated among teachers, NGOs, and other stakeholders at seminars, workshops, and conferences in order to emphasise the importance of understanding the needs of language-impaired children. This also enabled parental participation in the speech and language therapy process, which further increased the success of language support initiatives. All described activities and results were produced for the first time in Europe, and were aimed at enabling the use of innovative instruments among teachers in their daily work.

Teachers

The project consisted of the three following primary innovative components:

  1. Contribution to limited resources, with the project having focused on areas that were largely neglected and under-researched – particular among languages of partner countries with limited speech therapy resources such as Bulgaria, Turkey, Serbia, and Slovenia. Although speech and online language pathology tools were designed by adhering to the same format and principles across all languages, these tools nevertheless took into account the specificities of each language, and their particular problematic constructions for children with language problems.
  2. Resolution of socioeconomic problems by overcoming linguistic issues, with the project consortium having assisted language-impaired children to receive adequate language therapy at different ages, thus allowing them to fully benefit from education processes and to gradually develop their social lives.
  3. Integration of research through the implementation of cutting-edge research findings in the development of speech and language – particularly with regard to online therapy tools coupled with mobile assessments and practical exercises for kindergarten and primary school teachers.

Impact

The project’s actual impacts on participating specialists, participating organisations, target groups, and other stakeholders were higher than expected. This was especially evident when the project was presented to stakeholders and professionals at the project’s final stage. Project partners were especially appreciative of the project’s overall outcome – the development of an online tool that, at the time of its release, had yet to be developed. The tool was not only applicable to a broad age range of 3 to 10, but was also made available in 6 different languages. Kindergartens and schools that had used the tools, resources, and videos noted the ease with which it allowed them to work with children, which also enabled teachers to be more confident and assertive when language or speech difficulties were brought to their attention. Parents noted that the availability of such free tools increased their awareness of their child’s speech and language development levels across all ages (up to 10 years of age). The school was also particularly satisfied with the interest shown by stakeholders, with the following positive impacts noted by children, families, and teachers: an increase in the knowledge and competencies of kindergarten teachers at the initial stage of education with regard to language and speech development and therapy opportunities; an increased understanding of the relationship between teachers and parents regarding language skills; an enhanced and elevated professional view of language-learning across European countries; increased motivation among teachers in the use of interactive teaching tools; improved performance among children following language therapy; easier and improved communication among teachers and parents when discussing children’s speech difficulties and problems; and, an improvement in communication and contacts with regard to cooperation among teachers, speech therapists, language and speech specialists, and parents with regard to the development of children’s speaking skills at an early age.

Through the appropriate application of tools, the number of children who were unreasonably directed to speech therapy examination was reduced, and, conversely, the number of children directed in a timely fashion to speech therapy support, increased (by up to 20% at the European level). In quantitative terms, as a result of implemented dissemination activities, as well as pilot testing activities across all partner countries, the following approximate number of stakeholders had been reached: over 1700 teachers in kindergartens and primary schools; over 800 psychologists; over 1200 pedagogical advisors and educators; over 500 speech therapists; over 500 special pedagogues; over 90 kindergarten and school teachers, psychologists, and speech therapists trained to work with refugee or immigrant children; and, over 5000 kindergarten and primary school students. Additionally, the following NGOs had also been engaged: over 300 representatives of non-governmental organisations working with disadvantaged children; over 120 representatives of non-governmental organisations and institutions working in the field of education for children; 10 local, regional, and national educational authorities; over 60 Members of the National Advisory Council; over 60 representatives from centres for the early intervention and support of children, and, over 1000 parents and parent-affiliated organisations.

The project’s web platform (available in 6 languages) will be made available for a period of 5 years, with results uploaded to the project’s website. Individuals visiting said website will be able to download, read, and utilise shared materials – all of which are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license. The web platform’s visitors will be able to share (copy and redistribute materials in any medium or format) and adapt (remix, transform, and build on materials) public results. Moreover, the project’s social media accounts (Facebook page and YouTube channel) were made publicly available so visitors can view posts, messages, and videos on said platforms. The project also resulted in the unique and critical achievements of IO3, which include: an articulation test with an individual assessment element that determines a child’s current level of speech performance, while comparing the child’s speech and the ways in which the child pronounces age-dependent speech components; a printable diagram of speech development (based on cutting-edge research) that indicates the development of phonemes in children; a diagram of phonological processes detailing a visual map of each phonological process with descriptions, examples, and the age at which they should be mastered; worksheets for the practice of problem sounds (including a pictorial visualisation and texts that indicate the repetition of problem sounds at various points of a given word, thus providing a more descriptive presentation while facilitating the child’s ability to automate these sounds); a chronological age calculator that calculates the child’s current age so as to make a comparison of their current speech abilities; and, online flash cards for the proper articulation of sounds at the beginning, middle, end, or in ‘blended form’ within a word.

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Stakeholders

Participants

International Association for Research and Development of Vocational Education and Training

Address
Turkey

National Association of Professionals Working with Disabled People

Address
Bulgaria

SoftQNR D.O.O.

Address
Serbia

University Rehabilitation Institute

Address
Slovenia

The Nottingham Trent University

Address
United Kingdom