Service-learning's impact on dental students' attitude towards community service

Eur J Dent Educ. 2015 Aug;19(3):131-9. doi: 10.1111/eje.12113. Epub 2014 Aug 21.


Background: This study evaluated service-learning programme's impact on senior dental students' attitude towards community service at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Dentistry. Experience gained through service-learning in dental school may positively impact dental students' attitude towards community service that will eventually lead into providing care to the underserved.

Materials and methods: Two surveys (pre- and post-test) were administered to 105 senior dental students. For the first survey (post-test), seventy-six students of 105 responded and reported their attitude towards community service immediately after the service-learning programme completion. Three weeks later, 56 students of the 76 responded to the second survey (retrospective pre-test) and reported their recalled attitude prior to the programme retrospectively.

Results: A repeated-measure mixed-model analysis indicated that overall there was improvement between pre-test and post-test. Scales of connectedness, normative helping behaviour, benefits, career benefits and intention showed a significant pre-test and post-test difference. An association between attitude towards community service and student characteristics such as age, gender, ethnicity and volunteer activity was also examined. Only ethnicity showed an overall significant difference. White dental students appear to have a differing perception of the costs of community service.

Conclusions: The service-learning programme at VCU School of Dentistry has positively impacted senior dental students' attitude towards community service.

Keywords: attitude; community-based dental education; service-learning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Community Dentistry*
  • Community Health Services*
  • Education, Dental
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intention
  • Male
  • Students, Dental / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Virginia
  • Volunteers / psychology