Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name



Special Education

First Advisor

Gerald Oglan

Second Advisor

Gregory Zvric


A paradigm is the conceptual framework or lens one uses to view reality. The field of speech-language pathology is traditionally rooted in the empirical paradigm, which believes that language can be fragmented into isolated skills and taught in a hierarchal fashion. This belief has resulted in service delivery models that remove students from naturalistic contexts for decontextualized exercises. Progress in language acquisition is measured objectively. The empirical belief is exemplified by the accountability requirements in special education law (e.g., IEP). It is compounded by the realities of public school speech-language pathologists (SLPs), such as high caseload numbers, multiple buildings, and paperwork/meetings required. These realities, viewed through the empirical paradigm, frequently cause SLP's to feel ineffective with students.

The interpretative paradigm views language acquisition holistically. It takes into account contextual/personal factors involved in a child's communication success. This belief encourages SLPs to facilitate language acquisition in authentic environments (e.g., classroom), using a collaborative service delivery model. In this paradigm, qualitative research methods are valued. This methodology views language as a dynamic phenomenon that cannot be separated from the context and culture of an individual.

The purpose of this study was to rethink the role of context in the facilitation of language acquisition by SLPs. Writing conferences were held with three third grade students diagnosed with language learning impairments. Authentic inquiry, critical moment teaching, and scaffolding were used to facilitate language growth and measured qualitatively. The growth was described in relation to the student's IEP goals/objectives. A rich description of the findings showed that authentic contexts and techniques do support language growth for students with language learning impairments. Fieldnotes, teacher/student/SLP interviews, and student artifacts were used to triangulate the data from transcribed conferences. A discussion on realistic ways that SLPs can use authentic contexts, goals, and techniques with students to best understand language ensues. Suggestions on ways to transfer qualitative data to the objective requirements of IEPs are given. The study encourages school-based SLP's the view their position through an interpretative lens to facilitate systematic change in the child's communicative context.