Appraisal of the dental school learning environment: the students' view.

David Henzi, Elaine Davis, Roma Jasinevicius, William Hendricson, Laura Cintron, Marcia Isaacs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


The majority of studies examining dental school curriculum have addressed organization, structure, and content issues from the perspectives of administrators, faculty, practitioners/alumni, and professional organizations. However, few studies have focused on students' opinions of dental school. The purpose of this study was to determine students' perceptions of the learning environment, intellectual climate, and teacher-student relationships in dental school. This report describes how the "dental version" of the Medical Student Learning Environment Survey (MSLES) was used to identify students' perceptions of their dental education. Freshman and junior dental students' perceptions were measured with the Dental Student Learning Environment Survey (DSLES), which evaluates learning environment, intellectual climate, and relationships among students and teachers in seven areas: flexibility, student-to-student interaction, emotional climate, supportiveness, meaningful experience, organization, and breadth of interest. The DSLES was mailed to twenty-three dental schools in North America with eighteen of the schools distributing the inventory. A total of 619 dental students responded. Results were differentiated between freshman and junior dental students. Both freshman and junior students provided the highest (most positive) ratings for the DSLES subscales of "breadth of interest" (interest in dentistry and outside interests are encouraged) and "meaningful learning experience" (significance of courses to dentistry). Freshman students provided the lowest (least positive) ratings for "emotional climate" (students' responses to the way their courses were conducted and stress levels), and junior students provided the least positive ratings for "faculty supportiveness" (extent of faculty support and encouragement provided to students). The DSLES identified students' perceptions of their educational experience and localized areas for improvement. By addressing these areas of concern, faculty can increase student satisfaction with their dental education.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1137-1147
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of dental education
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Dentistry


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