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J Dent Educ. 2011 Aug;75(8):1061-72.

Student self-assessment in dental hygiene education: a cornerstone of critical thinking and problem-solving.

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Chattanooga State Community College, Dental Hygiene Program, Chattanooga, TN 37406, USA.


Self-assessment is an integral component of learning and developing decision making and critical thinking skills in the practice of dental hygiene. Dental hygienists must think critically and develop problem-solving strategies during their formal education to ensure lifelong quality and ongoing development of their personal knowledge and skill as related to providing comprehensive, evidence-based patient care. The primary focus of this qualitative investigation was to obtain undergraduate dental hygiene students' perceptions of and experiences with self-assessment. The sample consisted of an intact undergraduate dental hygiene class of seventeen students in their final semester of a two-year, entry-level dental hygiene program at a community college in the southeast United States. Data for this research were obtained from three sources: 1) a program-designed self-assessment survey assignment, 2) in-depth interviews with four second-year dental hygiene students, and 3) program-designed clinical competence evaluation forms. Inductive data analysis revealed that the majority of students perceived that they had no prior experience with self-assessment in any prerequisite coursework and thus felt unprepared for its use in the dental hygiene program. As they matriculated in the program, students began to see the advantages of self-assessment in clinical practice. Programmatic orientation to self-assessment may therefore be beneficial due to the varying backgrounds of students entering dental hygiene programs.

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