How to Use Evidence to Become a Better SLP

We have so many options available to us to continue learning and to become better SLPs. It’s exciting and overwhelming at the same time. I don’t know about you, but I struggle to keep up with it all. When I was taking Evidence-Based Practice in grad school, the professor taught us about the levels of evidence (and how to evaluate the evidence and use it to guide therapeutic decision making), how to thoroughly search a database, and how to consult a variety of sources (i.e., not just ASHA journals). That sounds like an awful lot to put on our already overflowing plates as school-based SLPs!

It might feel impossible to find time to earn CEUs so that you can meet your continuing education requirements. Plus, you really want to become a better SLP, but you're struggling to find the time to research. How can you make it happen? In this blog post, I'm sharing my process for researching SLP-related topics and improving as an SLP regularly. Click through to read about it and get links to helpful resources!

In the “real world” of an SLP, there are many hurdles to finding evidence for everything we do. Time and access to journals are two huge factors that come to mind! However, I do try my best to implement this piece of the EBP triangle, since it is an important component. I want to be the best SLP that I can be while setting reasonable expectations. I set goals for myself to stay informed and knowledgeable about best practices. It’s definitely not perfect, but my current “system” keeps me inspired and motivated to continue learning and improving as an SLP. Here’s what I came up with…

Getting Started

These are quick and easy resources that I check on a regular basis. Some people may not consider this to be “professional development,” but I have learned so much from these tools. It can be very lonely as an SLP, and I so appreciate the opportunity to collaborate and talk about our field with other professionals.

1. Facebook Groups: I love reading other people’s questions and answers. It helps me think critically about what I’m doing and helps me identify areas that I might learn more about.

Speech Pathologists at Large
School-Based Speech & Language Therapy
SLPeeps – Middle and High School
AAC for the SLP
Medical SLP Forum

2. Blogs: I added some of my favorite blogs to Feedly. I love reading about what other SLPs are doing in therapy. Many of them also have a focus on evidence-based practice.

3. The Informed SLP: If you haven’t signed up for this newsletter, you must! Researchers digest the latest research for us and share all the juicy information in a monthly email. It’s a great way to stay current and identify areas that you might want to learn more about.

I jot down ideas or questions that come up in Evernote. I come back to this when I’m picking my “topic for the month.” Read more below!

Monthly Research

I set a goal to research at least one topic a month. The topic is often influenced by a student on my caseload or something that was mentioned in a group/blog post. I write my topic on a sticky note and keep it on my desk. I set aside a few times over the course of the month to research that topic. Here are my two “go to” resources:

4. Journal Articles: I regularly search through the journals on ASHA when I’m working on my “question of the month.” They have a lot of relevant articles, but I remember my graduate school professor telling me to not only rely on them. I’m not exactly keen on spending $15 for one article, but I will if I absolutely need it. I often save the abstract and head to the university library to look at a handful of articles at a time.

5. SpeechPathology.com ($99/year): I also have found that SpeechPathology.com (affiliate link) has some great presentations, too. I get to learn from experts in the field, who often help me dig through the research more quickly than I would on my own. (I check the citations if I decide I want to learn more.) I also earn CEU credits at the same time. Since I complete about one lecture a month, I don’t have to worry about CEUs!

I keep all of my notes in an Evernote folder. (This makes it easy to reference them later, although a notebook or a Word document would work, too!) Because I often come up with my “topics” with a particular student in mind, it’s really easy to make the articles/presentations relevant. I  include a section to jot down any practical applications of the research, which helps me use what I learned with my students. I still have a long way to go, but–by taking a bite-sized piece every month–I’m able to keep learning and improving.

Although that is my general process, I love going to conferences and taking advantage of other free resources. Here are a few more ideas:

6. Conferences: I love attending my state conference. Although the ASHA conferences are a splurge, they offer presentations on so many amazing topics. It’s a great opportunity to connect with other SLPs.

It depends on the state, but some areas offer free (or inexpensive) conferences. For example, my previous Educational Service District offered amazing AAC conferences. Connect with your local SLPs to see what options are available in your area!

Tell us about your tips for keeping up with the evidence! Leave a comment below.

marisha-mcgrorty-about-mobile

Hi there! I'm Marisha. I am a school-based SLP who is all about working smarter, not harder. I created the SLP Now Membership and love sharing tips and tricks to help you save time so you can focus on what matters most--your students AND yourself.

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