ADEA Commission on Change and Innovation in Dental Education. Educational strategies associated with development of problem-solving, critical thinking, and self-directed learning.

By Hendricson WD, Andrieu SC, Chadwick DG,

Date: 01/2006
Journal:   J Dent Educ.

Summary :

Purpose:  To provide a benchmark that faculty and academic planners can use to assess the degree to which their curricula include learning experiences associated with development of problem-solving, critical thinking, self-directed learning, and other cognitive skills necessary for dental school graduates to ultimately become expert performers as they develop professionally in the years after graduation.

Most highlighted Results:  

  • What are best practices for helping dental students acquire the capacities to function as an entry-level general dentist? 
  • Three issues were addressed:

1-What Constitutes Expertise, and When Does an Individual Become an Expert?

  • Dreyfus brothers popularized the five-stage development continuum that consists of novice, advanced beginner, competent, proficient, and expert.​
  • Capacities are gradually and progressively enhanced by trial and error learning and successive approximation supported by timely and corrective coaching. ​
  • How long it takes to acquire true expertise?​
  • The most frequent answer by many investigators is a conditional “five to ten years depending on many factors.”​
  • Factors: inherent difficulty of the skills, the frequency of practice, opportunities for progressively increasing levels of challenge and responsibility in work after completion of formal school-based training, and the availability of a mentor to serve as a coach and role model.

2. What Are the Differences Between Novice and Expert Thinking? 

To develop problem-solving ability, students must convert the unorganized static information (i.e., bits of data) they have “sponged” from textbooks and lectures into the interlinked chains of networked knowledge, defined as information that has meaning, value, and recognized utility and which an individual can explain in his or her own words.

3. What Educational Best Practices Can Help Our Students Acquire Mental Capacities Associated with Expert Function?

Cognitive psychologists categorize “knowledge” into three areas:​

 1) declarative knowledge.​

2) procedural knowledge.​

3) an ill-defined gray zone between declarative and procedural knowledge that includes the reasoning skills often described as ​

critical thinking and problem solving. ​

In the health professions: critical thinking and problem solving are often loosely defined as clinical reasoning, diagnostic thinking, or clinical judgment. ​​

7  elements are associated with effective learning:​

1. Communication of learning objectives for each class session​

2. Organization of the subject matter in a manner that makes sense to the learner​

3. Frequent in-class activity such as writing notes, analyzing problems, or answering questions​

4. Use of mnemonics to aid memorization of factual information​

5. Frequent in-class quizzing with immediate feedback on response correctness​

6. Total amount of “time on task” including in-class activities and personal study time ​

7. Summary of key points to remember (“take-home messages”) at the end of each lesson