Could it be a matter of perspective? “Educating” vs. “Training” in Dental Schools

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.

Dental informatics rocks at the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) Annual Session in Orlando!

So, Thankam and I are currently driving from the American Dental Education Assocation (ADEA) Annual Session in Orlando to the Annual Meeting of the American Assocation of Dental Research (AADR). I wanted to take this time to tell you about what happened at the ADEA meeting with regard to dental informatics: In one short phrase, “Dental informatics rocked!”

To take a small step back, that was not always the case. I have been affiliated with what was then called the American Assocation of Dental Schools (AADS) (and is now ADEA) for over 20 years. During that time, I have watched dental informatics grow up from a concept that no one was familiar with into a domain that literally permeates all aspects of dental care, education and research.

Ample proof of that are the dental informatics events at the ADEA meeting that is coming to a close. There was a series of presentations on “Data Mining From Electronic Patient Records to Measure Patient and Student Outcomes,” 23 short talks on a variety of dental informatics topics, and the TechExpo, in which faculty and students demonstrated informatics applications hands-on. In addition, there were probably over 20 posters that focused on dental informatics either exclusively or partially, as well as quite a few exhibitors. 

The dental informatics topics at the meeting were as varied as they were interesting. In the data mining session, Muhammad Walji talked about his work on merging the EDR databases of four dental schools into a virtual data warehouse for research. Rachel Ramoni discussed how targeted selection can help identify patients with adverse dental outcomes better than traditional methods. I spoke about our work on data mining of EDRs in private practice to support outcomes, epidemiology and comparative effectiveness research, funded by an NIH grant

In the short talks, we learned about educational applications, such as online courses in dental hygiene, a visuo-audio-haptic system for training in dental caries detection, and an electronic portfolio for enhancing learning in pre-doctoral pediatric dentistry, as well as many other topics.

The TechExpo was a smorgasboard of applications, such as “A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words: Dental Images Media Library,” “Augmented Reality in Dental Education: An Innovative Approach to 3-D Visualization,” “Dental Histology Online: Creating a Virtual Microscopy Lab to Engage Students in Interactive Computer-Assisted Instruction,” “Engaging Predoctoral Dental Students in State-of-the Art CAD/CAM Technology Through the Use of the Blue Cam” and “Using the iPad 2 to Become an Engaging Educator and More Effective Researcher.”

All in all, it was an energizing experience to see dental informatics research and development thriving at ADEA. As we would say in Germany: “Weiter so!”

All the best and keep in touch!


Titus Schleyer, DMD, PhD
Assoc. Professor and Director, Center for Dental Informatics

Is the NMC Horizon Report reliable?

Most of you are probably aware of the release of the new Horizon Report for Higher Education; if not, consider reading it:

“The ninth edition describes annual findings from the NMC Horizon Project, a decade-long research project designed to identify and describe emerging technologies likely to have an impact on learning, teaching, and creative inquiry in higher education. Six emerging technologies are identified across three adoption horizons over the next one to five years, as well as key trends and challenges expected to continue over the same period, giving campus leaders and practitioners a valuable guide for strategic technology planning.”

The report reveals technological metatrends and predicts:

  1. People expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want to.
  2. The technologies we use are increasingly cloud-based, and our notions of IT support are decentralized.
  3. The world of work is increasingly collaborative, driving changes in the way student projects are structured.
  4. The abundance of resources and relationships made easily accessible via the Internet is increasingly challenging us to revisit our roles as educators.
  5. Education paradigms are shifting to include online learning, hybrid learning and collaborative models.
  6. There is a new emphasis in the classroom on more challenge-based and active learning.
  • Time-to-Adoption Horizon: One Year or Less

– Mobile Apps
– Tablet Computing

  • Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Two to Three Years

– Game-Based Learning
– Learning Analytics

  • Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Four to Five Years

– Gesture-Based Computing
– Internet of Things

When reading such predictions, I am asking myself how reliable are they.  Recently, Martin et al. tried to answer exactly this question in a paper* published in Computers & Education. The authors looked at all reports which have been published since 2004 (they received “more than 500,000 downloads a year and have an estimate readership of about 1 million in 75 countries”).  Martin et al. used “bibliometric analysis which technologies were successful and became a regular part of education systems, which ones failed to have the predicted impact and why, and the shape of technology flows in recent years.” The paper includes several very interesting visuals on how technologies most likely to have an impact on education. The authors conclude: “The bibliometric analysis over the predictions highlights that some of the predictions were right, e.g., social networks, user-created content, games, virtual worlds and mobile devices. Other predictions did not have the expected impact, e.g., knowledge Web, learning objects and open content, context-awareness and ubiquitous computing. However, other predictions were successful, although their impact was delayed one or two years, e.g., grassroots videos and collaborative Web.”

Do you think that the Horizon Report trends have an impact on how you evaluate technology for dental education?



* New technology trends in education: Seven years of forecasts and convergence by Sergio Martin, Gabriel Diaz, Elio Sancristobal, Rosario Gil, Manuel Castro, Juan Peire. Computers & Education (2011). Volume: 57, Issue: 3, Pages: 1893-1906