Consistency in dental clinical feedback to students: clinical teachers’ perspectives

Judith Werner, Graham Hendry


Purpose: In dental education, feedback from clinical teachers is critical for developing students’ clinical competence. However, students have identified inconsistency of clinical feedback from clinical teachers as a major area of concern. Compared to research on the student perspective of consistency in clinical feedback, dental clinical teachers’ own views of the consistency of their feedback is not as thoroughly researched. The purpose of this study is to redress that balance.

Methodology: This qualitative study explored dental clinical teachers’ views of the clinical feedback process during the 2017 academic year, with a focus on their perceptions of consistency of their own feedback.

Findings: Our results show that clinical teachers use a number of parameters in judging students’ performance and giving feedback, and were aware that their feedback may not be consistent with other clinical teachers’ feedback. Teachers also recognised that this inconsistency could lead to an adverse effect on students’ learning and clinical competence. Research implications: To improve the consistency of their feedback and calibrate their judgement of students’ performance, clinical teachers recommended that their Dental School should provide opportunities for them to engage in collegial discussion and interactive, case-based teaching development programs. They also believed clinical teaching and its significance to dental student learning and competence should be recognised and valued more highly by the School.

Practical implications: Implementation of professional development initiatives endorsed by clinical teachers has the potential to improve the consistency of teachers’ feedback and the quality of clinical dental education, and ultimately the quality of oral health care.

Originality: This is the first study to explore clinical teachers’ views of how they judge students’ performance and the consistency of their feedback.

Limitations: A limitation of this study is that clinical teachers who volunteered to participate may have different opinions compared to teachers who did not participate.

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