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J Dent Educ. 2009 Feb;73(2):177-83.

A model for critical thinking measurement of dental student performance.

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College of Dentistry, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242-1010, USA.


The educational application of critical thinking has increased in the last twenty years with programs like problem-based learning. Performance measurement related to the dental student's capacity for critical thinking remains elusive, however. This article offers a model now in use to measure critical thinking applied to patient assessment and treatment planning across the four years of the dental school curriculum and across clinical disciplines. Two elements of the model are described: 1) a critical thinking measurement "cell," and 2) a list of minimally essential steps in critical thinking for patient assessment and treatment planning. Issues pertaining to this model are discussed: adaptations on the path from novice to expert, the role of subjective measurement, variations supportive of the model, and the correlation of individual and institutional assessment. The critical thinking measurement cell consists of interacting performance tasks and measures. The student identifies the step in the process (for example, chief complaint) with objective measurement; the student then applies the step to a patient or case with subjective measurement; the faculty member then combines the objective and subjective measurements into an evaluation on progress toward competence. The activities in the cell are then repeated until all the steps in the process have been addressed. A next task is to determine consistency across the four years and across clinical disciplines.

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