Hello. I am starting my first DIOC blog entry mainly as a result of communicating with Heiko recently on measurement issues in dental education. Heiko wrote in ADEA Faculty Development Listserve: “While I do not want to digress too much from faculty development, I would like to add that the one problem we often overlook is the fact that what we define as learning outcomes is not entirely “on target.” While most of us think of dental education as “education,” it is much closer to “training” as we are all working in professional schools whose mission is to produce competent dental practitioners. While a great dental education goes a long way on the path to becoming a successful dental practitioner, we need to be careful to think of them as exactly the same.“
In general I agree with Heiko’s careful dissection on the issue regarding measuring the outcomes of dental schools. However, I am curious to learn more what your and other dental educators’ takes are, specifically on why most dental educators, including Heiko, think dental schools are more training than educating.
Here is a bit background on why this question emerged. My first degree was physics. 13 years ago, at the end of my graduate study in Curriculum and Instruction, I started working in the field of teacher education and teacher professional development. At that time, I was warned not to use “training” as a word when interacting with teachers and future teachers. It was not obvious to me then why such a word can lead to difficulty and sometimes resentment. Over the years, I have realized how changing the word “training” to “preparation” has helped me reframe my own work with teachers and future teachers. It also helped me to rethink what outcomes I would like to achieve in my work with teachers. The belief of “I know it better than the people I work with” seems to dissipate the moment I took the position that I am there to help prepare future teachers and to enhance current teaching practice. Additionally, “training” seems to be more or less associated with rule-based skills. Yet, teaching is not composed of a set of rule-based technical skills. One can not buy a book on “teaching for dummies” and expect to become an effective teacher overnight. Along with Lee Shuman (2004) and many others, I believe that teaching requires one to develop practical wisdom, of which is nearly un-trainable due to its context-specific nature and practical wisdom is not rule-based, as Aristotle pointed out long ago. I admit that this belief leads to the acceptance (Schwartz & Sharpe, 2011) of how difficult it is to measure the outcomes of teacher preparation programs. For teachers are only getting better the more they practice (if they are reflective).
So, now, let’s switch our focus back to dental education. From the perspective of a dental educator, what difference will it make for you to shift your belief and action from “training” future dentists to “educating”?
Shulman, L. S. (2004). The wisdom of practice: Essays on teaching, learning, and learning to teach. S. Wilson (Ed.) San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Inc.
Schwartz, B. & Sharpe, K. (2011). Practical wisdom: the right way to do the right thing. Riverhead Trade.