Impact of a Tutored Theoretical-Practical Training to Develop Undergraduate Students' Skills for the Detection of Caries Lesions: Study Protocol for a Multicenter Controlled Randomized Study

JMIR Res Protoc. 2017 Aug 16;6(8):e155. doi: 10.2196/resprot.7414.


Background: Tutored laboratorial activities could be a manner of improving the competency development of students. However, its impact over conventional theoretical classes has not yet been tested. Additionally, different university contexts could influence this issue and should be explored.

Objective: To assess the impact of a tutored theoretical-practical training for teaching undergraduate students to detect caries lesions as compared with theoretical teaching activities. The impact of these teaching/learning activities will be assessed in terms of efficacy, cost/benefit, retention of knowledge/acquired competences, and student acceptability.

Methods: Sixteen centers (7 centers from Brazil and 9 centers from other countries throughout the world) are involved in the inclusion of subjects for this protocol. A randomized controlled study with parallel groups will be conducted. One group (control) will be exposed to a 60- to 90-minute conventional theoretical class and the other group (test) will be exposed to the same theoretical class and also a 90-minute laboratory class, including exercises and discussions based on the evaluation of a pool of images and extracted teeth. The mentioned outcomes will be evaluated immediately after the teaching activities and also in medium- and long-term analyses. To compare the long-term outcomes, students who enrolled in the university before the participating students will be interviewed for data collection and these data will be used as a control and compared with the trained group. This stage will be a nonrandomized phase of this study, nested in the main study. Appropriate statistical analysis will be performed according to the aims of this study. Variables related to the centers will also be analyzed and used to model adjustment as possible sources of variability among results.

Results: This ongoing study is funded by a Brazilian national funding agency (CNPq- 400736/2014-4). We expect that the tutored theoretical-practical training will improve the undergraduate students' performance in the detection of caries lesions and subsequent treatment decisions, mainly in terms of long-term retention of knowledge. Our hypothesis is that tutored theoretical-practical training is a more cost-effective option for teaching undergraduate students to detect caries lesions.

Conclusions: If our hypothesis is confirmed, the use of laboratory training in conjunction with theoretical classes could be used as an educational strategy in Cariology to improve the development of undergraduate students' skills in the detection of caries lesions and clinical decision-making.

Keywords: active learning; cariology; dental education; laboratory training.