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Audiology Education

Reflect, Mentor, Lead: A Unique Experience in Audiology Education

Buhr-Lawler, Melanie AuD; Hartman, Amy AuD

Author Information
doi: 10.1097/
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Reflective clinical practice. Mentoring experience. Leadership within and beyond the field of audiology. These are important skills to foster in our future generation of audiologists; however, they are not typically taught in traditional audiology classrooms. The mission of the University of Wisconsin (UW) Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders is to provide an exemplary education program that prepares students to be the next generation of scholars, clinicians, educators, and leaders in our field. The University of Wisconsin audiology (AuD) clinical faculty have developed and implemented a program to actively teach clinical reflection, mentoring, and leadership skills to future audiologists.


Melanie Buhr-Lawler, AuD

The objective of the program is to enhance the experiences the students are already acquiring through their classes and clinical practica. This program is integrated into the coursework of all UW AuD students and designed to allow students to further develop their reflection, mentoring, and leadership skills consistent with our departmental mission.


Amy Hartman, AuD

All University of Wisconsin AuD students participate in the program for the entirety of their second year. Implemented in the 2012-2013 academic year, it is currently in its fourth year. The program consists of three components: a seminar course; an assigned mentoring role to a first year AuD student; and the planning and execution of a symposium for the public on a topic in audiology.


Figure 1
Figure 1:
UW-Madison students in their seminar course. Photo/ Melanie Buhr-Lawler, AuD
Sample Seminar Topics

The seminar component, titled “Enhancing Your Clinical Skills,” consists of biweekly discussion sections with case-based, individual oral exams at the conclusion (Figure 1). The instructor and student-led discussions include clinical reflection and other topics relevant to clinical practice, mentoring, and leadership (Table).


Figure 2
Figure 2:
All second and first year UW-Madison students participate in a student mentor-mentee assignment. Photo/ Melanie Buhr-Lawler, AuD

All second-year students in the AuD program mentor a first-year AuD student, with whom they are paired in their clinical placements (Figure 2). Mentoring focuses on understanding clinical protocols, the role of a student clinician, and graduate student life. Second- and first-year graduate students work together under the instruction and guidance of their clinical professor throughout the semester.


Figure 3
Figure 3:
The UW-Madison Athletics Department provided excellent marketing for the 2016 symposium at UW-Madison men's basketball, hockey, and women's basketball games. Photo/Lyndsey Craven, AuD

The second-year students work as a group on a leadership project: the planning and execution of a symposium for the general public on a topic related to the field of audiology. The students work together over the course of the year to select their topic, plan logistical details, create a budget, market the symposium (Figure 3), and conduct the event. Clinical professors provide advice and answer questions; however, the event is entirely orchestrated by the second year AuD students.

Figure 4
Figure 4:
Participants and second year AuD students providing hearing aid cleanings at the 2014 symposium (top left). AuD students at the 2015 symposium (top right). Guest speaker, Jon Douglas, AuD, at the 2015 symposium (bottom). Photos/Melanie Buhr-Lawler, AuD

Past symposium (Figure 4) included:

2013: A Spotlight on Hearing Health

2014: Listen up: It's Your Hearing

2015: Spotlight on Tinnitus

2016: How to Protect Your Hearing and Why


Approximately 50 second-year AuD students have participated in the program since its inception in 2013. Their responses to the experience have been overwhelmingly positive.

Students and recent graduates report that the seminar course has provided them with valuable skills. The discussions help provide a cohesive experience to all second-year graduate students, while the seminar allows for a focus on topics not traditionally covered directly in clinic or didactic courses. It also serves as a platform for clinical reflection and teambuilding.

End-of-semester student evaluations of the group seminar have been reflective and favorable. Clinical faculty report that by facilitating the seminar, they have the opportunity to learn more about the students’ personal and professional strengths and challenges. Another benefit of the seminar for clinical faculty is that it provides them a forum to further enhance their own reflective clinical practice.

The leadership opportunities the students gain through the mentor role and the planning and execution of the symposium have been valuable in clinical practice and in fostering future leadership skills. Student interest in leadership and outreach has grown in recent years.

The educational symposium is an excellent resource for our community on topics in audiology and has brought publicity and attention to the profession, clinic, and department. Surveys of symposium attendees universally indicate the event is a positive learning experience.

Additionally, off-site clinical supervisors and potential employers have had a positive reaction to the experiences and skills our students have gained through the program. Continued data collection through surveys of our graduates and their employers will provide further insight as to whether students gained lasting, transferrable skills in their careers as audiologists from the program.

Did you know?

  • Audiology is expected to grow by at least 29 percent, which is considerably faster compared with other career fields.
  • Approximately 3,800 audiologists will be needed to fill the professional demand between 2014 and 2024. Currently, there are around 15,000 practicing audiologists in the U.S.
  • Speech-language pathology is projected to grow by 21 percent through 2024, with the notable increase in survival rates, bilingualism, and higher demand for contract services.
  • “Audiologist” is ranked as the 26th best job and 18th best health care job in the 2016 U.S. News & World Report.
  • Audiology was touted as one of the 20 fastest growing professions for women, who comprise 80 percent of practicing audiologists.
  • In the U.S., there are currently 73 doctoral programs in audiology and related hearing science.
  • The first AuD program opened at Baylor University in January of 1994.
  • In 2014, first year enrollment over student capacity for audiology clinical doctorate entry-level programs is at 96.9 percent.
  • Enrollment total for audiology clinical doctorate entry-level programs in the U.S. was at 2,797 in 2013-2014, indicating an 11 percent increase from 2010-2011.
  • The health sector is projected to continue to grow, with over 4 million additional jobs by 2024, primarily in health practitioners’ office and home health care.


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