Exploration of critical thinking in dental hygiene education

J Dent Hyg. 2014 Dec;88(6):394-402.


Purpose: This qualitative study explores the perceptions of dental hygiene faculty regarding issues surrounding critical thinking skills integration within their associate degree dental hygiene programs.

Methods: Twenty faculty participated in the study, as drawn from 11 accredited associate degree dental hygiene programs in one Midwest state. Multiple sources of data were collected, including email questionnaires, individual follow-up phone interviews and artifacts. Interpretive analysis was conducted.

Results: Data analysis revealed that faculty generally understood critical thinking, but interpretations varied. Most do not use varied teaching strategies to promote critical thinking skills, and focus on one particular strategy--that of case studies. The participants identified the need for allied health-focused faculty development opportunities, and noted that calibration of instruction was needed. Despite challenges, faculty felt responsible for teaching critical thinking skills, and identified the need for time to build critical thinking skills into the curriculum.

Conclusion: This study was conducted in response to the American Dental Education Association Commission on Change and Innovation's challenge for dental hygiene educators to comprehend their own knowledge on the concept of critical thinking related to research-based pedagogical approaches to teaching and learning. Findings revealed a strong desire among the dental hygiene faculty in this study to incorporate critical thinking into their work. They want to do what they believe is the right thing, but their actual knowledge of the definitional and application theories about critical thinking is still in the early stages of development. Regular and targeted faculty development opportunities are needed.

Keywords: critical thinking; curriculum; dental hygiene; teaching strategies.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Communication
  • Curriculum
  • Dental Hygienists / education*
  • Faculty
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Learning
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Problem Solving
  • Qualitative Research
  • Staff Development
  • Students
  • Teaching / methods
  • Thinking*