Monday, 7 July 2008

Chris Stokes, Dentistry

Chris Stokes treated us to a whirlwind tour of the Dentistry building today, taking in the departmental lobster tank, sound-proofed web-servers, cow tissue reception units and the NHS on three separate floors. He also introduced us to a series of initiatives in Dentistry tailored to the academic and professional development of their UGs, highlighting several key areas where TASH can play a part. And to cap a very rewarding hour and a bit, he agreed to join TASH's core project team as our key link to the Faculty of Medicine.

Key areas of concern for Dentistry, he suggested, were as follows:

  • academic literacy/culture - as Chris put it to us, many UGs have little or no appreciation of what academics do other than for the one hour per week they stand up and lecture to them face-to-face ... understanding the context in which they are working is something that TASH can definitely help with;
  • personal/inter-personal development - UGs often good one to one with patients (something they are effectively screened for at interview) but less good at group work perhaps;
  • data handling - help with stats would be welcomed, particularly around UGs 4th year elective project when they get to go out into the wider world for a few months and consider what they find;
  • written, oral and other communication - not a lot of essay writing in Dentistry, but the need to develop a range of skills for communicating to very different audiences and, encouraged by the department's own range of online support and assessment, using a range of media too (including poster presentations, which we need to specifically add to the "other communication" strand); Dentistry is clearly a long way ahead of many departments in its use of wikis, podcasts and other media for assessment;
  • reflective learning - something UGs often struggle with, especially because they are so forward looking in terms of identifying and working towards the next set of tests/exams in a curriculum which is very closely structured - an area TASH might again help with, particularly in setting students up for their elective projects.
Chris shared a range of ideas around online media in particular, how to assess them, and how to make use of co-/ extra-curricular activities too (specifically the Dental Revue videos on YouTube). The fact that many dental students appear to favour/privilege visual learning style more than many other UGs was also an interesting theme which ran through many of our discussions. We look forward to exploring all of this and more with Chris over the coming months, as well as picking up on some unfinished conversations concerning the ADOPT scheme and pre-entry support.

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