Pedagogical studies within the field of odontology
Dental Students' Academic Writing
The aim of this project is to scrutinise Swedish dental students’ writing in academic setting: what these students are expected to read and write, how they are expected to do this, and for what purposes they read and write. For the overall project, the data produced are of three types: (i) curricular documents, including information given in study guides to the students; (ii) ethnographic data from lectures and clinical work (sound-recordings and field-notes during lectures, textbooks, hand-outs from the lectures, student notes from the given lectures, multiple-choice questions from the digital examination and clinical instructions); as well as (iii) interviews with students and teachers. Literacy events, i.e. what students read or write, and text-related communication are mapped throughout all activities (lectures, clinical work, and examinations). During clinical work, only field-notes were taken and only one of the researchers that also were teachers in the programme took the notes since clinical work also involves patients.
Dental education is one of several professional programmes in higher education. The national learning outcomes stated in the Higher Education Ordinance (SFS 1993:100- SFS 2017:284) point out for example the importance of knowledge of the scientific basis as well as of proven experience for dental work, the capability of making diagnoses aw well as treating various dental diseases and malformations, but also leadership and collaboration. Such learning outcomes obviously are abstract, as they coven a whole program of 300 ECTS, and are to be somewhat more concretized in syllabuses for the various courses that together form the programme. However, as in other professional programmes within academia, part of the learning outcomes relate to content like physiology and neurology, others relate to tools, and materials used for dental work and their properties – in everyday terminology the ‘theoretical’ aspects of dental work. Other learning outcomes relate to what a dentist does – the ‘practical’ (clinical) aspects of dental knowledge.
Furthermore, as becoming a dentist requires attending an educational programme, reading and writing are seen as self-evident aspects of the education. While it seems obvious that it takes time to become a skilled dentist and a degree is the necessary beginning in this direction, it seems less obvious that it also takes time to become a skilled writer in academia – where the meaning of being a skilled writer varies between disciplines. Being a student in any higher education assumes participating in an activity that to a large extent is literacy based.
To have the literacy competences and strategies needed for educational activities are crucial resources for students – these are the means for coping with literacy demands in varying but relevant situations, depending on the purpose of reading and or writing. For students in professional programmes, there is also another aspect – today part of a dentist professional work is literacy-related: documentation of work done, reports, subscriptions, referrals – these are one type of examples of what dentists are expected to write as part of their work. Other types of writing that today are imposed on most professions, be they academic or not, are related to quality control, sustainability and security.
Previous studies show that the transition from upper secondary school to higher education is challenging for students, since the literacy practices they have experiences of differ from those they encounter in academia. Appropriating relevant academic literacies is relational – i.e. students of course need to struggle but it is also a question of what is made available to them. Characteristic for of academic literacies, whether in science; engineering; in history or national economy, is that students nee to master different genres (a breadth), but also a progression, in terms of complexity, in order to become successful within a programme or a discipline.
Nikolaos Christidis is the PI of this project.
Collaborators in this projects are Associate Professor Viveca Lindberg, PhD, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences Education, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden; Senior Consultant Sofia Louca Jounger, DDS, PhD, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden; Lecturer Maria Christidis, Registered nurse, PhD-student, Faculty of Health Sciences, The Swedish Red Cross University College, Stockholm, Sweden.