Bulletin of Dental Education

Summary of 2010 ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition Symposia(1)

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Several important symposia were held during the 2010 ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition. Here are several highlights of some of the most well-attended sessions.

Answer, Hope, and Move On: What is Wrong With Student Assessment

Faculty and students brought scholarly research, a revealing video, and their personable experiences to the table to call into question the value, purpose, validity, and fairness of multiple-choice exams. So what do they propose as alternative means of student evaluation?

Self-assessment, bluebook examinations, and direct faculty assessments of student pre-clinical performance were deemed preferable but pose challenges of their own. Panelists agreed on the need to use assessments that do not rely on guessing and provide feedback to students so they can learn from their mistakes. They also discussed at length the challenge of calibrating faculty to achieve an acceptable degree of consistency in how students are assessed.

Changing Institutional Culture Through Planning and Assessment

Institutional culture is a pattern of shared assumptions, beliefs, values, and behaviors that members form about their organization and work. A panel of faculty members presented four case studies that demonstrated the influence of planning and assessment on culture change through organizational change, diversity recruitment, e-learning initiatives, and curricular changes.

Planning and assessment play a vital role in changing the thinking strategies of an institution. By approaching institutional change through a corporate approach, a vision can be defined and identifiable skills targeted. An institution that can reflect on its performance by collecting evidence of effectiveness and using that information can direct improvement activities and become more of a learning organization. Evidence of being a learning organization is central to the accreditation self-study process.

The four case studies supported this theoretical framework of institutional change. In the first study, Baylor College of Dentistry greatly increased the proportion of underrepresented minority students by changing how the applicant's qualifications were assessed. The second study outlined efforts to impart a sense of responsibility in dental students at Baylor for the oral care of underserved populations. The third study examined student preferences for various e-teaching methods and how the learning impacted the institution's strategic planning. The last study examined a curriculum management plan and other assessment efforts have resulted in curricular changes.

The panel was led by Dr. Lorraine C. Lewis from the Commission on Dental Accreditation and the studies were presented by Dr. Ann L. McCann, Dr. Barbara H. Miller, and N. Sue Seale, Baylor College of Dentistry, and Prof. Kathy R. Shepherd, University of Detroit Mercy.

ADEA Commission on Change and Innovation in Dental Education: Leading Change and Innovation

Representatives of the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, the ADEAGeis Foundation, the ADEA Council of Sections, and the ADA described the interests and workings of their grants programs.

A detailed overview of the activities of ADEA CCI was followed by a lively presentation by the Chancellor of the University System of Maryland, Dr. William E. Kirwan, a dynamic leader credited with turning the University of Maryland, once seen as a "degree factory" by many, into a contender for admission to the upper echelons of higher education.

In Dr. Kirwan's view, transformational change requires the creation of a roadmap, leadership to create an environment for change, and processes to drive and sustain a change agenda. He emphasized that values are the bedrock from which change flows, citing memorable examples from corporate history as well as his own experiences as a university administrator. Dr. Kirwan also outlined the steps his administration has taken to control costs, raise enrollment and graduation rates, and substantially reduce tuition in the state relative to peer institutions.

ADEA Commission on Change and Innovation in Dental Education Symposium: Institutional Assessment Building and Sustaining School Capacities

This wide-ranging discussion of institutional assessment explored strategic planning, accreditation, benchmarking, capacity building, and quality improvement, but panelists all agreed that it comes down to asking the right questions. Among those raised:

  • Are we reorganizing ourselves in meaningful ways to meet our larger goals?
  • If we are doing something excellently, but it is not essential to the mission, should we be doing it?
  • Are we producing a competent graduate, or are we improving the oral health of society?
  • How committed are we to discovering the uncomfortable facts about how we operate?
  • Are our institutional cultures preventing us from moving forward?

The session also featured sample dashboard displays created with low-cost, readily available Excel spreadsheet software. These graphic representations have the potential to change the nature of discourse around curriculum and other critical matters by rendering the data more transparent and accessible.

Report from NIH: Stimulus Funds for Oral and Craniofacial Research

Dr. Lawerence A. Tabak from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) addressed a packed room about the latest updates regarding the funding opportunities created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). ARRA was passed to help stimulate the economy, preserve and create jobs, advance biomedical research, and expand science with new programs and initiatives. ARRA added an additional $10 billion to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget for fiscal year 2010, of which $102 million went to the NIDCR.

The ARRA supplement to the NIDCR has gone into payline extensions, challenge grants programs, GO grants, faculty recruitment initiatives, and competitive supplements. Of these, the challenge grants program has seen a robust response from the community, with 453 applications presented and 41 of these scored.

Of particular interest is the creation of a special K99/R00 (also called a "kangaroo") grant to help postdoctorate students achieve specialty training and move forward in a research grant. The program is limited to recent dual degree D.D.S./Ph.D. scientists. The R00 phase, normally limited to a three year track, can be extended to five years to allow grantees part time clinical specialty training through their institution.

Dr. Tabak also covered recent changes in the NIH peer review process. The entire process has been shortened with a restructured application process, to provide better transparency and succinctness. A new scoring system is being applied to all applications, with a score applied for individual core criteria and overall impact, to help applicants in the refining process. With new page limits in place, the entire process has been streamlined and extensive training material is now available for reviewers and NIH staff.

ARRA has provided the NIDCR with additional funds and opportunities for grant applications. The NIDCR and NIH have seen an increase in the diversity of grants being awarded, creating new opportunities for scientific research, study, and breakthroughs.

New Oral Health Professionals: Emerging Workforce Models

Starting with an historic overview of federal legislation related to new dental workforce models and state workforce trends, this panel examined Minnesota's creation of a new oral health practitioner, the dental therapist, and efforts by the state's public institutions of higher learning to devise programs to prepare individuals for the role.�

Controversies surrounding the legislation, differences in the degree programs currently being offered, and concerns about how dental therapists might achieve the state's goal of improving access to care were explored in depth by the presenters. Attendees also raised questions about how patients will receive the new practitioners and whether they will reduce the cost of dental care. This vital dialogue will continue as the situation evolves with dental educators endeavoring to bring clarity to the discussion around the competencies and supervision of new mid-level providers.

Revisiting the Surgeon General's Report on Oral Health: Overview of Project and Outcomes

A recent report on children's oral health commissioned by the American Academy of Pediatrics served as a starting point for a provocative discussion of the ways in which dental education is failing to produce graduates both willing and capable of caring for America's children, especially the very young.

According to panelists, well-entrenched practices in dental schools conspire to reinforce students' focus on fixing teeth and discourage them from embracing the higher calling of helping vulnerable patients achieve health. Nevertheless, the presenters offered a wide range of avenues that institutions, ADEA members, and the Association as a whole can take to improve children's access to care. These include changes to accreditation standards, interprofessional initiatives, and the development of new workforce and business models.

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