Weaknesses in phonological awareness skills can be seen in children with reading difficulties, speech sound disorders, stuttering or developmental language disorders which are the disorders speech and language therapists frequently work with. In addition, speech and language therapists can make significant contributions to the children on defining, assessing and training the phonological awareness skills with their background knowledge about phonetics and phonology. Therefore, it is recommended that speech and language therapists integrate these skills into their therapy when working with preschool and school-age children with phonological awareness deficits. For all these reasons, speech and language therapist candidates are expected to graduate with a certain knowledge level of phonological awareness. It is thought that determining the knowledge level of speech and language therapist candidates regarding phonological awareness is important in terms of educating better- equipped speech and language therapists and increasing the quality of clinical practice. Purpose: Therefore, the first aim of this study was to determine the knowledge level of speech and language therapist candidates regarding phonological awareness. Another aim was to examine whether the knowledge level of the participants differed according to their grade levels, attending lectures or doing research about phonological awareness. Method: A total of 543 speech and language therapist candidates from various universities of Turkey (Mean age: 21.12 ± 3.8) participated in this survey. In order to collect the data a survey titled ‘Determining the Knowledge Level About Phonological Awareness’ was developed by the first researcher based on the literature review on phonological awareness. By scanning the studies on the subject, it was aimed to develop expressions that can assess current and correct information about phonological awareness. The survey consists of two parts. The first part of the survey consists of demographic information. The second part of the survey consists of the 22 items related to phonological awareness. The survey was delivered to the participants via internet. The frequency and percentage values were calculated for the participants who gave correct answers to each item. In addition, Mann Whitney U or Kruskal Wallis H tests were used according to the normal distribution assumption to determine whether the knowledge level of the participants differed according to their grade level, taking lecture or doing research about phonological awareness. Results: The result of this study revealed that a great majority of the participants (94.8%) know that speech and language therapists have important roles regarding phonological awareness. According to the results, 4th grade students, those who attended lectures and who did research about phonological awareness were more knowledgeable than 1st grade students, those who did not attend lectures and who did not have research experience about phonological awareness, respectively. On the other hand, the results showed that in general participants' level of knowledge was quite low. Conclusion: Speech and language therapists have important roles and responsibilities in the assessment and intervention of phonological awareness skills. For this reason, speech and language therapist candidates should have theoretical knowledge on the subject in order to fulfill their roles and responsibilities in their clinical practice after graduation. The result of the study showed that the level of knowledge of 4th grade students was significantly higher than 1st grade students. It was also observed that the students who stated that the phonological awareness subject was included in their lectures, had higher levels of knowledge compared to the students who stated that this topic was not included in their lectures. However, it was observed that the mean scores of 4th grade students were still quite low. For this reason, it is recommended to enrich the lecture contents of speech and language therapist candidates on the nature, assessment and training of phonological awareness skills. Practitioners are recommended to increase their theoretical knowledge on the assessment and intervention of phonological awareness skills and reflect their theoretical knowledge to their clinical practice. In future studies, it is thought that mixed method studies consisting of speech and language therapists, increasing the number of participants and including qualitative interviews other than the closed ended items prepared as a survey, can improve the results of this study. In this way, together with the level of knowledge on the subject, opinions about the training and application contents can be examined in more detail.
early literacy, phonological awareness, phonology, phonological development, speech and language therapist candidates
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