Improving evaluation of dental hygiene students’ cultural competence with a mixed-methods approach

Priscilla M Flynn, Nassim Sarkarati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Most dental hygiene educational programs include cultural competence education, but may not evaluate student outcomes. The aim of this study was to design and implement a mixed-methods evaluation to measure dental hygiene students’ progression toward cultural competence. Two cohorts consisting of consecutive classes in one U.S. dental hygiene program participated in the study. A total of 47 dental hygiene students (100% response rate) completed self-assessments to measure their attitudes and knowledge at three time points between 2014 and 2016. Mean scores were calculated for three domains: Physical Environment, Communication, and Values. Qualitative analysis of the students’ cultural diversity papers was also conducted to further evaluate students’ knowledge and skills. Bennett’s five-level conceptual framework was used to code phrases or sentences to place students in the general categories of ethnocentric or ethno-relative. The quantitative and qualitative results yielded different outcomes for Cohort 1, but not for Cohort 2. The Cohort 1 students assessed themselves statistically significantly lower over time in one of the three measured domains. However, the Cohort 2 students assessed themselves as statistically significantly more culturally competent in all three domains. Qualitative results placed 72% of Cohort 1 students and 83% of Cohort 2 students in the more desirable ethno-relative category. Since quantitative methods consisting of student self-assessments may not adequately measure students’ cultural competence, adding qualitative methods to measure skills specific to patient care in this study added a robust dimension to evaluating this complex dental hygiene student competence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-111
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of dental education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018


  • Allied dental education
  • Cultural competence
  • Dental hygiene
  • Dental hygiene education
  • Mixed-methods


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