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Eur J Dent Educ. 2013 Feb;17(1):10-8. doi: 10.1111/eje.12012. Epub 2012 Nov 20.

Characteristics of effective clinical teachers identified by dental students: a qualitative study.

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Department of Prosthodontics, New York University College of Dentistry, NY, USA.


This qualitative research study identified criteria for clinical teacher quality preferences as perceived by dental students. Third and fourth year dental students at New York University College of Dentistry were given a two question, open-ended survey asking what qualities they liked most and least in a clinical teacher. Responses were collected until data saturation was achieved. A total of 157 respondents provided a total of 995 written comments. Descriptive words within the responses were coded and grouped into key words, according to similar relationships, and further refined into 17 defined categories. Three core themes, Character, Competence and Communication, emerged from these 17 categories, which were validated according to specific references found in the existing educational literature. 'Character' comprised nine of the 17 defined categories: (caring, motivation, empathy, patience, professionalism, available, fairness, happiness, patient-centred) and yielded 59.1% of total student responses; 'Competence' consisted of five categories: knowledgeable, expertise, efficient, skilful, effective (29.2%); and 'Communication' represented the remaining three categories: feedback, approachable and interpersonal communication (11.7%). Positive and negative responses related to the defined category of caring were cited by 59.2% of all students. Motivation was the next highest category, cited by 45.9% of students. Non-cognitive attributes, especially those in the Character theme, comprised the majority of student comments. Because students' perceptions are so critical to understanding clinical teaching effectiveness in dental education, these findings can be used to develop assessments to measure clinical teaching effectiveness, to create criteria for the hiring and promotion of clinical faculty and to plan faculty development programming.

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