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Wednesday, June 22 • 16:45 - 18:00
POSTER.33 - Critical thinking in dental hygiene education: Examining student perception

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Empowering learners to effect change suggests that learners acquire skills to become lifelong learners; one such skill is critical thinking. Critical thinking is a high level cognitive function desired in graduates of higher education, including professional education programs such as dental hygiene (Kahlke & White, 2013; Behar-Horenstein & Niu, 2011). Research on the general topic of dental hygiene education is limited; research specific to critical thinking in dental hygiene education is even more rare (Notgarnie, 2011). This research is designed to deepen understanding of dental hygiene students’ perceptions and experiences of acquiring critical thinking skills in their professional education. A basic qualitative study was selected to start the discussion and data were gathered during a focus group followed by individual interviews. The sample comprised of seven recent graduates of a two-year, community college-based, dental hygiene program in Ontario, Canada. Inductive data analysis using an interpretive perspective was conducted to identify categories, patterns, and themes in order to uncovering meaning to address the research questions. This thematic data analysis indicated students valued the strategies employed to learn critical thinking. Participants indicated their critical thinking began with acquiring base knowledge on theory related to the field of dental hygiene followed by developing a thought process using case scenarios with small group work and discussion. The clinical setting was noted as a real and challenging environment to apply critical thinking. Participants valued being offered a variety of activities aimed at developing their critical thinking. Many of the findings of this exploratory study align with research on developing critical thinking in adult education and professional education (Bassham, Irwin, Nardone, & Wallace, 2011; Brookfield, 2012). This basic qualitative study provides beneficial preliminary information about how dental hygiene students learn critical thinking.


Bassham, G., Irwin, W., Nardone, H., & Wallace, J.M. (2011). Critical thinking: A student’s introduction (4th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Behar-Horenstein, L.S., & Niu, L. (2011). Teaching critical thinking skills in higher education: A review of the literature. Journal of College Teaching and Learning, 8(2), 25-41. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.libproxy.stfx.ca/docview/857923396/abstract/1379B4FE3E2229FE312/4?accountid=13803

Brookfield, S. (2012). Teaching for critical thinking: Tools and techniques to help students question their assumptions. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Kahlke, R., & White, J. (2013). Critical thinking in health sciences education: Considering "three waves". Creative Education, 4(12A), 21-29. doi: 10.4236/ce.2013.412A1004

Notgarnie, H. (2011). Critical thinking of United States dental hygiene students (Doctoral dissertation, University of Pheonix). Retrieved from http://proquest.umi.com.libproxy.stfx.ca/pqdlink?did=2357531201&Fmt=6&VType=PQD&VInst=PROD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1342065225&clientId=18854


Helen Symons

Helen Symons RDH BSc MAdEd is a college educator in the Dental Hygiene Program at Fanshawe College in London, Ontario. This research project was done in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the degree of Master of Adult Education, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova... Read More →

Wednesday June 22, 2016 16:45 - 18:00 EDT
Atrium, Physics & Astronomy Building Western University

Attendees (3)