Webwords 53: Forging professional identities - November 2015

Webwords anticipated a forthright answer when she asked Speechwoman what she thought of the title of Webwords 53.

'It's open to more than one interpretation', Speechwoman said tersely. ‘Why not replace forging with a word like attaining, or building, or constructing, crafting, creating, developing, establishing, fashioning, forming, growing, h…’ She went on a bit. Alphabetically. I mean, honestly and truly! The woman is a talking thesaurus.

'Pernickety and pedantic,' muttered Webwords, not quite quietly enough.

‘I heard that, and no, I’m sorry, your title is ambiguous.’

‘Deliberately so.’

‘So you want "forging" to imply “purposefully creating something strong, enduring, or successful” and “faking it”?’

‘Absolutely, because faking it can be a useful tool - especially for novices in a field, or newcomers to a specialised area within one.


‘Says Athene Donald. She's writing about career progression, confidence building and moments of transition to independence.’

‘Ah.’ Speechwoman is nothing if not a good listener, and now she was almost prepared to really, really listen. But not before allowing herself a final salvo, 'If you're including the part about pedantic and pernickety, you will have to put persnickety, persssssnikety. For your American readers. Since you like to speak to the international SLP/SLT community.'

'They'll figure it out. Are you going to listen to this?'

Speechwoman composed herself as Webwords read from the screen the last couple of sentences of the piece that had caught her interest.

"...faking experience and faking confidence are all good ways of coping with uncertainty
and lack of knowledge. You will know you’re doing it, but by practicing sounding calm and
certain, over time when you find – with luck – that the world has not crashed around your
shoulders and that you are indeed moving forward rather than back each time you do it,
the fake will become the real thing. And then you are ready for the next challenge, and the next."

                                                                                                                 Athene Donald 'Faking It' June 2015

Fresh science

Webwords 53, in the November 2015 issue of the JCPSLP, 'Fresh Science and Pioneering Practice', is flanked by an exciting array of articles: uniquely interesting because they are the outcome of student project findings. Based on honours and quality improvement projects, and units of independent study, they were completed in the 2014 academic year by Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) students enrolled in undergraduate or masters level professional preparation programs in university courses around Australia.

If Webwords guesses correctly, most of the authors will have put their student personas to one side, for the time being at least, to embark on careers in Speech Pathology — or, to wait for a full-time job to come up (HWA, 2014, page 30). Some will be bitten by the research bug and go on to be doctoral students, post docs, early career researchers, and so forth; most will pursue a clinical career; a handful will do both; and many will eventually assume administrative roles. Inevitably, they will struggle at times with issues around work-life balance and setting professional boundaries, or enjoy the challenges they pose. A significant number of them will leave the field (McLaughlin, Adamson, Lincoln, Pallant & Cooper, 2010), or leave and return.

Whatever the case, all will need a periodic boost to spur them on whether they are primarily high self-reinforcers, or whether they generally look to others for support and encouragement. Everyone needs a fillip from time to time. So this seems like a good opportunity for Webwords to hunt down a smattering of wisdom tucked away in blogs and books, and helpful online resources, for SLPs/SLTs at all stages of their careers.


Little wonder Speechwoman became closely attentive at the mention of British academic, engaging blogger and steady Tweeter, Dame Athene Donald, Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Cambridge.

In February 2015, she blogged reflectively on eight matters she wished she had been on top of as a student and early career researcher. One: don't be fooled or intimidated by a supremely confident demeanour in another, and two, beware of the dangers of over-confidence in yourself. Three, by all means plan, but understand that an inflexible 5-year plan may lead to missed or unnoticed opportunities along the way. Four, no matter how irrelevant skills and facts acquired at school or as an undergraduate may seem now, most will be useful at some point. Five, don't feel the need to emulate someone else's 'right way' of doing something successfully; find a way that that builds on your strengths and suits your style: it may even be superior. Six and seven (for perfectionists) you can cut corners, but know the angles; and show willing when opportunities arise, even when you are aware that you are not the perfect person for the job, now: work hard at on-the-job training. Eight, asking a question (once, mind!) is not an admission of weakness, but a sign of strength.

Akin to public speaking, answering and asking questions publicly can be fraught with participation anxiety, and the calmly named Serena at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario presents six strategies that helped her when she was a student, too scared to raise a hand in class in order to answer a question. By contrast, Dorothy Bishop at the University of Oxford addresses the (mainly female) participants at professional meetings who ask questions inside their heads but keep schtum when called upon to ask one out loud. Irritated by the passivity she perceives among these particular women, and seeking an explanation, Bishop refers to Virginia Vallan's compelling 1999 book Why so slow?.

Blogs can be sources of clinical guidance too. Take for example Pamela Snow's I'm behaving at you! Are you listening? in which she reminds the reader that all behaviour is a form of communication, and that the carryings-on associated with certain emotional states and skill deficits are easily mistaken for poor engagement, unco-operativeness, rudeness, or lack of motivation.


Helpful advice and information are often neatly summarised, or presented as top tips, in blog posts about books. Lois Kelly's review of The Small Big: Small changes that spark big influence includes a list of thought provoking nuggets about persuasion, under the headings of communicating, influencing decisions, forming relationships, getting commitments, meetings, and building your network. Webwords found the idea of a book written by the 'dream team of persuasion science' so enigmatic that she downloaded an electronic copy, and quickly appreciated why 77% of readers gave it a five-star rating. Publisher's websites often hold 'think pieces' by their authors, and one that stood out in June 2015 was Eiki Satake's article on adopting an evidence-based approach in the clinical decision-making process. The article is in the Plural Publishing blog, providing a taster for Satake's 2014 book.


10 Tips for graduates, from "Lean in for Graduates"
Big Interview
Dig Your Heels in and Fight! How Women Become Researchers in Communication Sciences and Disorders
Questions interviewees for private/independent practice positions might ask


Every month since June 1998 Speechwoman has selected an SLP/SLT related site of the month. Sometimes it has been not so much a site, as a page, blog entry or resource within a site, worthwhile celebrating. At the time of writing, 206 winners were listed. The Internet being what it is, many have disappeared, but many are alive and thriving so that Webwords can include them in an A to Z (respecting Speechwoman) selection of useful, interesting, entertaining or downright amazing web resources.

ASHAwire: ASHA's publications
Bilingualism and raising bilingual children
Cochrane Collaboration
Debate: Is Specific Language Impairment a Useful Term?
Eight Classic storytelling techniques for engaging presentations
First Words Project
Gary Radler
Hearing - My Baby's Hearing
IPA Character Picker v. 14
John Panagos - School Speech Pathology
Key Word Sign NSW
Links related to Evidence-Based Practice on the speechBite site
Multilingual Children's Speech
Neuroscience: My life with Parkinson's
Open Multilingual WordNet
PrAACtical AAC
Quinion's - World Wide Words
RALLI (RALLI YouTube channel)
Scholarly Open Access
Type IPA Phonetic Symbols for all Languages
US National Library of Medicine Databases
Voice Academy
X- Fragile-X Association of Australia
Zeta Boards


HWA (2014). Health Workforce Australia: Australia’s Health Workforce Series - Speech Pathology in Focus. LINK

McLaughlin, E.G., Adamson, B.J., Lincoln, M.A., Pallant. J.F., & Cooper, C.L. (2010). Turnover and intent to leave among speech pathologists. Australian Health Review, 34(2), 227-33. LINK

Satake, E. (2014). Statistical methods and reasoning for the clinical sciences: Evidence-based approach. San Diego, CA: Plural Publishing. LINK





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