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J Dent Educ. 2008 Dec;72(12):1405-35.

Assessing dental students' competence: best practice recommendations in the performance assessment literature and investigation of current practices in predoctoral dental education.

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American Indian/Alaska Native Programs, School of Dental Medicine, Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado, Denver, Anschutz Medical Campus, Mail Stop F800, P.O. Box 6508, Aurora, CO 80045, USA.


In this article, the Task Force on Student Outcomes Assessment of the American Dental Education Association's Commission on Change and Innovation in Dental Education describes the current status of student outcomes assessment in U.S. dental education. This review is divided into six sections. The first summarizes the literature on assessment of dental students' performance. Section two discusses catalysts, with a focus on problem-based learning, for development of new assessment methods, while the third section presents several resources and guides that can be used to inform selection of assessment techniques for various domains of competence. The fourth section describes the methodology and results of a 2008 survey of current assessment practices in U.S. dental schools. In the fifth section, findings from this survey are discussed within the context of competency-based education, the educational model for the predoctoral curriculum endorsed by the American Dental Education Association and prescribed by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. The article concludes with a summary of assessments recommended as optimal strategies to measure three components of professional competence based on the triangulation model. The survey of assessment practices in predoctoral education was completed by 931 course directors, representing 45 percent of course directors nationwide, from fifty-three of the fifty-six U.S. dental schools. Survey findings indicate that five traditional mainstays of student performance evaluation-multiple-choice testing, lab practicals, daily grades, clinical competency exams, and procedural requirements-still comprise the primary assessment tools in dental education. The survey revealed that a group of newer assessment techniques, although frequently identified as best practices in the literature and commonly used in other areas of health professions education, are rarely employed in predoctoral dental education.

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