Clinical dental education as a situated activity, the teachers' role

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Louka, Amazis Nashed
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The education of dentists is historically rooted in apprenticeship. Traditionally, the professional community of dentists reproduced itself by having newcomers to the profession join the practice community and learn from expert practitioners. Recent developments in dental education indicate that philosophies have come full circle to revisit the apprenticeship concept. Situated learning theory is a productive framework for studying learning through apprenticeship, since it involves the education of the whole person and is not limited to the transfer of knowledge and skills. Lave and Wenger (1991) introduced the concept of "legitimate peripheral participation" as a critical rethinking of the concept of learning. This concept can be applied to dental education in that a "newcomer" begins in a peripheral position, and though immersion in the practice and culture of the profession, gradually assumes full participation in a community of practitioners. This study was designed to examine the views of the clinical teachers in dentistry with respect to their roles in students' learning and growth toward the profession. A diverse sample of ten clinical teachers representing full-time and part-time teachers, different expertise, length of experience and gender have participated in one-on-one question-guided interviews. A content analysis of interview data revealed views on the development of technical knowledge, professional communication skills, and professional values that were consistent with the literature on situated learning and legitimate peripheral participation. Concerns were expressed regarding the legitimacy of weak students, communication with students and development of students' professional identity.