Bulletin of Dental Education

Global Assessment Workshop Offers a Lesson in Empathy

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By Nicole Fauteux

What can you learn from folding a piece of paper? More than you might think. During a Sunday morning workshop at this year’s 2013 ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition, attendees were asked to transform a sheet of paper into a miniature crown. Step-by-step instructions were provided, as was a grading rubric that made clear the importance of crisp folds and edges that matched.

Silence descended as participants focused intently on the task at hand. Bit by bit the two-dimensional squares were folded inward and outward until paper crowns began to take shape. Then the mood began to shift.

While a few drew their thumbnails across folds to sharpen the edges of their finished creations, others opened their first attempts, laid the paper flat, consulted the directions, and started again. The first rumblings of chatter could be heard as some participants expressed frustration and neighbors leaned in to help.

After about 10 minutes, workshop facilitators Abby Brodie, D.M.D., M.S., of  Nova Southeastern University College of Dental Medicine  and Dr. Frank Licari, D.D.S., M.P.H., M.B.A., of  Midwestern University College of Dental Medicine-Illinois  called a halt to the exercise. What lesson had they hoped to convey by asking dental educators to try their hands at origami?

“It’s hard to be an expert and grade a novice,” says Dr. Brodie. “We need to remind ourselves how hard it is to do a skill for the first time even with clear instructions and a rubric.”

Dr. Licari added that the exercise also demonstrated how critical precise instruction is to student success. “Faculty want to show students shortcuts,” he says, “but novices need to follow each step to the letter.”

The session, Utilizing a Global Assessment Strategy to Determine Student Competence, provided an extensive look at the challenges inherent in assessment and gave attendees an opportunity to evaluate several assessment tools and discuss ways in which they might be improved.

Some of the take-away messages were that assessment 

  •  Is a process that occurs over time. 
  •  Should be varied, including formative, summative, and self-assessments. 
  •  Should use criterion-referenced standards. 
  •  Must be able to identify critical errors. 
  •  Must account for patient outcomes. 
  •  Should allow for remediation and reevaluation. 

To get a primer on assessment and to see a photo of a paper crown, access the workshop PowerPoint presentation via the ADEA web site.

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