Self-paced versus instructor-paced preclinical training in operative dentistry: A case study

Gary H Hildebrandt, Michael A. Belmont

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Preclinical operative dentistry courses have traditionally involved a lockstep series of live lectures and laboratory exercises. The aims of this study were to assess the effects of an experimental self-paced operative dentistry course on students' perceptions and performance and to compare performance outcomes for this class with the classes two years prior and two years after, which were instructed with the traditional curriculum. In 2013, all lectures in one of three operative dentistry courses at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry were placed online as narrated slide sequences. For the study, conducted in 2017, students' performance in the course in all five years was assessed, based on exams taken after the laboratory and lecture segments of the course and the practical exam. The experimental class was also invited to complete an end-of-course survey on perceptions of the learning experience. The number of students in classes using the traditional format (in 2011, 2012, 2014, and 2015) ranged from 103 to 108. In the experimental year (2013), 106 students were in the class; course assessments were done for all 106, and 104 responded to the survey (response rate 98%). The results showed no significant differences in assessments between the experimental class and the traditional classes. However, bench instructors reported feeling students in the experimental class were not as well prepared in laboratory sessions as were the traditionally trained students. On the survey, only 22% of students in the experimental class said they always viewed assigned material before the lab periods, with 78% viewing it often, sometimes, seldom, or never. In this class, 48% preferred the online lectures, 37% preferred live lectures, and 16% had no preference. These mixed results suggest caution when developing self-paced courses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1178-1184
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of dental education
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved.


  • Dental education
  • Educational methodology
  • Educational models
  • Operative dentistry
  • Preclinical education


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