Creating a Supportive Educational Research Culture at a Dental School by Identifying Obstacles and Solutions

J Dent Educ. 2019 Mar;83(3):265-274. doi: 10.21815/JDE.019.027. Epub 2019 Jan 28.


The aim of this study was to identify the extent of educational research conducted at one U.S. dental school and to assess faculty needs for engaging in it more fully. A task force developed and administered a survey to all the school's full-time faculty members in January 2014. The response rate was 73.6% (n=106/144). The majority of the respondents were clinicians (73%), had a primary responsibility for teaching (80%), and were non-tenure track (62%). Thirty-six percent (n=24) of the non-tenure-track respondents reported being expected to engage in scholarship as well as the 38% (n=40) who were on the tenure track, for a total of 60% (n=64/106). Overall, 51% of respondents reported they had a half-day or less for scholarship. Clinical faculty respondents had significantly less time for scholarship than non-clinical (p<0.001). Two-thirds (n=72, 68%) said they had not received research training, and over half (n=56, 53%) had never conducted educational research. The most common answers for why respondents did not conduct educational research were "do not know how" (n=32%) and "not required" (n=23%). Help with statistical analysis was reported as the most important support factor, followed by having collaborators, help with research design, time, funding, and travel. While overall interest in conducting educational research was moderate (median=5 on a 1-10 scale, IQR=3,8), a highly interested group (n=45) had produced more research than others (p≤0.041). This group desired more small grants (91%) and training opportunities (89%, p≤0.001). In response to one of the findings of this study, a small-grant program of $15,000 annually for educational research was implemented in May 2014. Funded by this program, 11 projects have been initiated with both scholarship and learning improvement outcomes.

Keywords: dental education; dental faculty; educational research; faculty; faculty development; research; research culture; research productivity; tenure.

MeSH terms

  • Dental Research*
  • Education, Dental*
  • Faculty, Medical / organization & administration
  • Faculty, Medical / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Organizational Culture*
  • Publications / statistics & numerical data
  • Schools, Dental / organization & administration*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States