Connecting mind and body to understand language
Bryan Gick, professor of linguistics at the University of British Columbia (UBC), was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in Linguistics. By combining research into the production, perception, control and biomechanics of speech, Dr. Gick has been bringing the human body into discussions of language.
Dr. Gick is considered a pioneer in using ultrasound biofeedback to teach and learn pronunciation, particularly for language learners, people with speech and hearing disorders, and communities at risk of losing their language. In 2009, as a featured author in Nature, he showed how humans “feel” speech through the skin. As an Early Career Scholar at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies at UBC, he co-developed ArtiSynth, a platform that would become home to “Frank” — the world’s first virtual biomechanical model of the human head, neck, and face. ArtiSynth has since permitted research and the development of applications related to speech, swallowing and surgical planning.
Following his undergraduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Gick earned two graduate degrees and a PhD at Yale University. In addition to his role as a professor in the Department of Linguistics at UBC, Dr. Gick is director of the Masters in Data Science in Computational Linguistics and co-director of the Language Sciences Initiative. He also holds associate appointments in the Department of Psychology; the School of Audiology and Speech Sciences; and the Institute for Computing, Information and Cognitive Systems. Outside UBC, he is a senior scientist at Haskins Laboratories in New Haven, Connecticut.
As director of the Interdisciplinary Speech Research Laboratory (ISRL) at UBC, Dr. Gick leads a team exploring a range of areas, including the use of visual biofeedback to treat speech and hearing disorders, and the use of ultrasound for imaging the tongue during speech. As of early 2018, the dozen-member team included four graduate and three postdoctoral researchers. In addition to collaborating with other UBC departments and Canadian universities, the lab also networks with researchers in many other countries, including Singapore, Taiwan, Australia, France, England, Hong Kong, Ghana, New Zealand and the United States.
Dr. Gick’s work has benefited from grants from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
*Bryan Gick is one of 12 Canadian winners of major international research awards in 2017 featured in the publication Canadian excellence, Global recognition: Canada’s 2017 winners of major international research awards.
Innovation in teaching: From theory to action
In Quebec, it takes a master’s degree in occupational therapy to become a member of the Ordre des ergothérapeutes du Québec.
To better prepare undergraduate students for the master’s program, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR) has created a special curriculum.
In order to improve students’ ability to handle common situations they will face once they enter the workforce, undergrads are required to take part in simulations of real-life clinical situations. For instance, making soup as if they had the limited mobility of an arthritis sufferer and cleaning up after themselves, showing a senior how to use Skype to keep in touch with his children, or assessing the functional abilities of a distrustful elderly women suffering a loss of autonomy.
These are just a few of the 24 clinical simulations in which the students will take part. These clinical learning labs are offered in the second and third year of the undergraduate program, according to Martine Brousseau, Director of the Occupational Therapy program at UQTR.
The learning labs take place in groups, under a teacher’s supervision, in a realistic environment and occasionally involve actors playing grumpy patients or technophobic seniors, for example.
Each group of nine students receives a sheet of paper describing the challenge (the clinical situation or case vignette) and must analyze the situation, identify the skills/knowledge they are lacking, read up on the subject, and then present a situational analysis and intervention plan. One student from each group takes part in the simulation of the clinical situation, while the others observe and, along with the teacher, provide feedback.
The purpose of the labs is to focus on the skills required by occupational therapists, as defined in the professional code of Quebec, which states that occupational therapists must “assess functional abilities, determine and implement a treatment and intervention plan, develop, restore or maintain a person’s skills…” Students must therefore learn to assess complex cases and take action in difficult situations.
“Being faced with real-life situations promotes learning,” Ms. Brousseau explains. “The students are more likely to remember how they reacted. They’ve said it themselves! Our curriculum was designed such that students must put themselves in the heart of the action in order to learn.”
Jessica Morin can attest to the effectiveness of this approach. She is currently enrolled in the master’s program, and the labs had a profound effect on her.
“When you read the vignette, you don’t fully understand what it entails,” she notes. “You only find out afterward.”
In her opinion, the most important skill the students take away from the program is to be unafraid of doing research and digging to find solutions.
“Our greatest strength is our ability to think on our feet.”