Conversation salons: A flexible format for open discourse in dental education

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Abstract

A series of conversation salons was created at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry as an innovative format with the objective of engaging students, faculty, staff, and practitioners in discussion to promote reflection. The aim of this study was to explore the nature of students’ abilities in the salons to connect experiences through reflection and apply what they learned to practice. Reflective essays (written during the summer and fall semesters of 2014) from 108 fourth-year dental students (all members of the Class of 2015) were read and assessed for the nature of reflection, number of connections, references to the past, applications to the future, and use of examples. For analysis, the theoretical works of Schön and Mezirow provided a useful framework. Overall, the results showed that the participants found the salon experience to be positive, and student participation was strong. When asked about learning, the most frequent responses were topic-related. At this stage of dental education, the students were largely focused on their future practice and found it easier to connect to an imagined future than a past experience. In terms of student abilities to reflect, the majority were skilled at simple reflection, based on these essays since only 18% were non-reflective and 15% showed strong critical reflection skills. The open and respectful environment of the salons enabled discussion and promoted reflection. These results suggest that more opportunities for collegial conversations and instruction in reflective practice earlier in the dental curriculum may be beneficial.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)466-472
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of dental education
Volume80
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016

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Keywords

  • Critical thinking
  • Dental education
  • Lifelong learning
  • Reflection
  • Teaching methods

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