ADEA CCI Liaison Ledger

University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry Takes an Integrated Approach to Assessment

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Since 2005, integration has been the watchword at the University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry. The basic sciences are integrated into the clinical science curriculum, and thematic units involve several departments in teaching previously isolated content areas. Students and faculty are integrated in clinical practice groups. Faculty move between classroom and clinic settings, and play an active role in helping students integrate foundational knowledge into clinical practice. So it comes as no surprise that Pacific's integrated approach also extends to assessment.

"We wanted to use assessments that require critical thinking. We wanted assessments to be formative rather than summative," says Dr. Nader A. Nadershahi, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. One example is the mentoring role that faculty play in guiding students through their first literature review. While the students must produce a paper, which will receive a conventional grade, the mentoring process also provides numerous intermediate assessments that shape the student learning experience along the way.

Although multiple-choice and practical exams are still in use at Pacific, along with some newer approaches like the OSCE, passive learning is not an option. Pacific emphasizes participation in classroom discussions, oral presentations, and debate panels that force students to demonstrate their knowledge and formulate cogent arguments that will be regularly assessed by faculty and peers.

Dr. Fred J. Fendler, Assistant Professor of Dental Practice, plays a critical role in creating the Integrated Clinical Sciences course that forms the backbone of Pacific's new curriculum. The curriculum makes use of case studies, introducing this interactive approach in the first week and using it throughout the three-year program.

"When our first group of third-year students were brought into the case-based seminars, they were on pins and needles," Dr. Fendler recalls. "We told them they would need to arrive prepared, and after the first session, they realized we weren't kidding. The students remained excited throughout the year, and many told us it was the best learning they had experienced."

How have faculty responded? Not surprisingly, faculty find that developing interactive assignments and grading papers and presentations is far more time-consuming than lecturing and scanning multiple-choice exams. Nevertheless, a strong desire to see students become the best practitioners possible and significant faculty development support have helped them adjust to the integrated curriculum. They also report tangible benefits. The new curriculum has allowed them to eliminate redundancies and gain welcome exposure to curricular areas outside their dental specialties.

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