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J Dent Educ. 2006 Sep;70(9):972-81.

Canadian dental students' perceptions of their learning environment and psychological functioning over time.

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Student Counselling and Career Centre, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada.


A cohort of dental students (N=28) at the University of Manitoba was followed throughout their entire dental education program to explore changes in their perceptions of the learning environment over time. Aspects of the students'psychological functioning, including common psychological symptoms, self-esteem, and coping strategies, were also evaluated to assess changes in these factors over time. A battery of instruments consisting of the Learning Environment Survey (LES), the Symptom Questionnaire (SQ), the Ways of Coping Checklist (WCCL), and the State Self-Esteem Scale (SSES) was administered at the beginning, midpoint, and end of each academic year throughout the four-year dental education program. Results indicated that there was a minor positive recalibration of student perceptions in the areas of course relevance and opportunities for outside interests during the first months of year one. Apart from this, perceptions of dental school as a seldom-to-occasionally positive learning environment were maintained over the entire dental education program. In terms of psychological functioning over time, students reported decreases in their levels of problem-focused coping and self-esteem, increased use of avoidance and wishful thinking as coping strategies, and more anxiety, depression, and hostility at various points. Some implications of these findings for dental education are discussed.

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