"Look at me!" - Does the provision of eye contact during language assessments impact on performance?
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Purpose: Speech and Language Therapists (SLT's) are often tasked with facilitating improvement of their client's non-verbal communication. Many of the assessments completed by SLT's are extensive and require them to read instructions and annotate responses, reducing their ability to maintain non-verbal behaviours such as eye contact with clients. However, the provision of eye contact in educational and healthcare interactions has been proven to improve attention (Evans, 2009) and enhance task performance (Burleson, 2009). It is possible therefore that, if provided during assessment, eye contact could impact positively on client scores. The aim of this study was to investigate whether the provision of eye contact during an SLT assessment would result in participants achieving higher scores. Method: Parental consent and participant assent were obtained from children between the ages of 9; 6 and 10; 4, with no diagnosed speech, language or communication impairments. The sample included a total of 56 pupils attending four schools within the same borough. The participants were evenly divided into either the "Eye Contact" (EC) condition or the "Non Eye Contact" (NEC) condition and completed the "Recalling Sentences" subtest of the CELF-4 (Semel, Wiig and Secord, 2004). Those in the EC condition received eye contact throughout the assessment and those in the NEC condition received minimal eye contact. Results: Participants in the EC condition achieved a higher average score than those in the NEC condition and this difference was found to be statistically significant (p=0.009). There were also differences observed between the average scores achieved by participants in each of the schools, and on comparison, the difference between two of the schools was found to be significant (p=0.041). 12 participants from the NEC condition and 1 from the EC condition requested reassurance or additional instructions on at least one occasion. Conclusion: This study suggests that an increase in the amount of eye contact provided during assessments would improve scores and also reduce client anxiety. These results have been discussed with regards to previous research and clinical implications have been suggested.
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