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J Dent Educ. 2006 Sep;70(9):925-36.

Educational strategies associated with development of problem-solving, critical thinking, and self-directed learning.

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  • 1San Antonio School of Dentistry, San Antonio, TX 78229-3900, USA.


This article was developed for the Commission on Change and Innovation in Dental Education (CCI), established by the American Dental Education Association. CCI was created because numerous organizations within organized dentistry and the educational community have initiated studies or proposed modifications to the process of dental education, often working to achieve positive and desirable goals but without coordination or communication. The fundamental mission of CCI is to serve as a focal meeting place where dental educators and administrators, representatives from organized dentistry, the dental licensure community, the Commission on Dental Accreditation, the ADA Council on Dental Education and Licensure, and the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations can meet and coordinate efforts to improve dental education and the nation's oral health. One of the objectives of the CCI is to provide guidance to dental schools related to curriculum design. In pursuit of that objective, this article summarizes the evidence related to this question: What are educational best practices for helping dental students acquire the capacity to function as an entry-level general dentist or to be a better candidate to begin advanced studies? Three issues are addressed, with special emphasis on the third: 1) What constitutes expertise, and when does an individual become an expert? 2) What are the differences between novice and expert thinking? and 3) What educational best practices can help our students acquire mental capacities associated with expert function, including critical thinking and self-directed learning? The purpose of this review is 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.

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