Dental educators and administrators gathered at a Monday, March 1, symposium to discuss the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). Panelists from four institutions saw two major challenges: what data should be collected to provide evidence of contribution and who should complete the evaluation. The symposium was organized and planned by Dr. Paula N. O'Neill, Associate Dean of Faculty Development at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHSC).
Dr. O'Neill addressed how a lack of understanding evaluations could hinder growth in assessment at UTHSC. While deans strongly agreed that teaching was recognized, 68% of faculty didn't believe teaching was valued for recognition. Based on feedback from a task force assigned to assess SoTL, UTHSC created two tracks for tenure that were readily adopted by both the medical and dental schools: a clinical educator pathway and a scientist educator pathway. They also adopted clearly stated SoTL guidelines for awarding promotion and tenure.
Review paths and tool changes were a focus of the symposium. As an institution with over 130 years of history, the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry has had a very traditional system of review. Dr. Cynthia C. Gadbury-Amyot, Director of Distance Education and Faculty Development, has been a part of the university's recent move toward e-portfolios as an assessment tool.
"Portfolios can provide a very rich summative assessment measure for bringing out that unique contribution that we all bring to our work places," said Dr. Gadbury-Amyot. She believes that portfolios should include some reflection, or else they are just a listing of what faculty have done. As an assessment tool, reflection also has the power to bring to light faculty growth and thoughts that otherwise would not be illuminated.
Dr. Janet L. Woldt, Associate Dean for Academic Assessment, has what some may consider a non-traditional approach to assessment. Representing the relatively young Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health (ATSU), Dr. Woldt spoke of her institution's 360-degree evaluations. In addition to the familiar supervisor and student evaluation, ATSU uses a degree of self-reflection and peer evaluation, not traditionally part of dental schools.
"This is about our students learning what they need to learn. Are we teaching what we need to teach? It's less about promotion and tenure and merit ratings," said Dr. Woldt.
ATSU created the position of Director of Integrated Human Sciences that observes all lectures and labs having to do with the basic sciences. The Director has an ongoing dialogue with faculty, on a daily or weekly basis, on how they can improve. Those ideas are then brought to a curriculum committee that meets every two weeks. Dr. Holdt emphasized the need to educate faculty and administration about why we need to do this peer review. "If you can't get the people who need to buy in to buy in, it's just not going to work."
Another assessment tool featured during the panel was MedEdPORTAL, an online publishing service designed to promote educational collaboration by facilitating the open exchange of peer-reviewed teaching resources. A rigorous review process based on accepted standards of scholarship weeds out submissions with insufficient educational context, a mismatch of educational objectives, or works that do not contribute to the field. MedEdPORTAL allows submitting authors to retain ownership of their intellectual property and decide the level of dissemination, obtain feedback from peer review, and receive usage reports. MedEdPORTAL allows anyone to download and use the free material published on the website.
"You can get a usage report on how many times your content was downloaded â€¦ and the intended use. So you can generate a metric for your CV," explained Dr. Nadeem Y. Karimbux, Assistant Dean for Dental Education and Associate Professor at Harvard School of Dental Medicine and MedEdPORTAL Associate Editor representing ADEA.
Also present for the panelist discussion was Dr. Nader A. Nadershahi, interim Dean of University of Pacific Arthur A. Dogoni School of Dentistry, and Dr. John W. Killip, Assistant Dean for Student Programs at University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry.
Throughout the discussion of the changes and evolution of SoTL, one thing was clear. There is no uniform way to produce the best assessment. Each school must examine its culture and resources to find the best fit. For dental educators, technology has created unique tools that allow the opportunity to expand the traditional assessment and grow and develop as teachers.