The role of observational research in improving faculty lecturing skills: A qualitative study in an Italian dental school

Med Teach. 2009 Aug;31(8):e362-9. doi: 10.1080/01421590902744860.


Background: This pilot study is based on observational research of lecturing skills during the annual Oral Medicine course at the Milan Dentistry School.

Aims: Our goals were to explore how teachers exhibited desirable lecturing skills, to observe how their attitudes and lecturing skills affected students' attention and thereby learning, and to provide feedback.

Method: We prepared a structured observational grid divided into four categories: explaining, questioning, visual aids, and lecturer attitude. The grid was filled in by a participant, nonactive researcher.

Results: Two main types of lecture were observed: "traditional" and "interactive". Both of these can result in a high level of attention among students. Among the categories, only "lecturer attitude" appeared to affect student attention. In particular, the skills of "speaking aloud" and "sustaining verbal communication with vocal inflection" appeared to have the greatest impact on lecturer attitude. The data were then presented blindly to the five lecturers, who were able to identify their own lesson.

Conclusions: Our grid proved to be a valid instrument although it was very expensive. When integrated with other strategies for improving lecturing, such as student scoring, peer evaluation, and microteaching, observational research can be a cost-effective method to stimulate guided reflection and to improve the lecturing skills of faculty members.

MeSH terms

  • Education, Dental / standards*
  • Faculty, Dental / standards*
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Observation
  • Oral Medicine / education*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Qualitative Research
  • Schools, Dental
  • Teaching / methods