Communication Disorders faculty pursue phonetic grading tool invention 

Faculty working together on phonetic transcription
Pictured from left: Marisha Speights Atkins, Cheryl Seals, and Dallin Bailey. 


Two assistant professors in the Department of Communication Disorders are working with the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering (CSSE) to develop a web-based application for helping students to learn to transcribe the sounds of words. Communication Disorders faculty Marisha Speights Atkins and Dallin Bailey are working with Cheryl Seals of CSSE to  develop the Automated Phonetic Transcription Grading Tool (APTgt) since Fall of 2016. The APTgt is a web-based tool designed to help teachers of phonetic transcription provide more efficient practice opportunities for their students, with automated feedback for each individual student, as well as the class as a whole.

Phonetic transcription is a core skill for students studying to become speech-language pathologists (SLPs). It uses the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) as a standardized representation of the sounds of spoken language. For instructors of phonetic transcription, the APTgt provides a complete learning management system (LMS) to support the creation of assignments and automate the grading process with embedded computer algorithms.

The APTgt was designed to fill an important gap in the existing teaching tools. Traditionally, students complete phonetic assignments by hand (on paper) or in word processing documents by downloading or copying symbols from websites. When learning methods for the transcription of disordered speech, it is beneficial for students to receive regular feedback on their progress. However, students rarely get immediate feedback on transcriptions since grading by hand is time-intensive for instructors. By automating the grading process via a unique algorithm, the APTgt can assist instructors in providing feedback to students in a more timely manner.

For students, the learning management system component of the APTgt provides access to assignments, scores, a point-and-click IPA keyboard, and graphs of individual and class results.

In addition to saving time for both instructors and students, the APTgt allows for sound files to be embedded into assignments, providing useful examples of typical and disordered speech for transcription practice.

Original funding for the tool came from the Biggio Center as a Breeden Teaching Award. Research is ongoing into the usability of the application and the impact of the increased practice it provides on transcription confidence in students. The APTgt is in phase two of development and is seeking further funding to develop the application beyond the Auburn University campus to testing at other sites, and eventually to an LMS marketplace.

Last Updated: April 23, 2019