Setting Expectations About Feedback in Dental Education

Publication ID Published Volume
10580 May 10, 2017 13

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Introduction: Many dental students find the amount of direct feedback they receive in dental school to be both unfamiliar and uncomfortable, as many new hand-skill courses are added to familiar lecture courses and traditional paper-and-pencil tests. In turn, when students react poorly to routine professional feedback, dental school faculty often complain they are too fragile. To address this clear gap in expectations between students and faculty in regard to feedback activities, this half-day workshop was developed for use during student orientation. Methods: In this workshop, students learn the theory of deliberate practice and the role that professional feedback will play in their training. Small-group workshops discuss past student experiences with feedback and use an origami exercise to explore student reactions to feedback. As is commonly done in technique courses, discussions about self- and peer assessment raise students’ comfort levels with respect to sharing their work with their peers. Additionally, addressing feedback issues early in their professional education makes students aware of feedback’s necessity in their professional development and helps them to deal with the emotional impact. Results: When we evaluated this course in 2014 and 2015, students rated this activity significantly higher than other orientation activities. Discussion: After several years of working with students who have had this orientation, faculty and administrators consider it highly valuable for setting expectations about feedback. They have also experienced fewer student concerns and complaints regarding feedback issues.


Mitchell JK, Gillies RA, Mackert R. Setting expectations about feedback in dental education. MedEdPORTAL Publications. 2017;13:10580.

Educational Objectives

By the end of this activity, learners will be able to:

  1. Explain how being prepared for constructive feedback is crucial to learning clinical skills in dental school through an understanding of the principles of deliberate practice.
  2. Understand that certain myths about learning, such as that some people are naturally skilled or can only learn if teaching matches their learning style, will hinder their success in skill acquisition.
  3. Recognize the difference between previous student experience with undergraduate feedback characterized by intermittent and emotionally loaded high-stakes grading as compared with the ongoing, face-to-face, professionally developmental feedback that is common in dental schools.
  4. Examine individual preference for feedback, including how well accepted it is, in the context of previous experience and future expectations of professional growth.


  • Feedback, Dental, Stress


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