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Curriculum Reform

February 1, 2017

Dean John Featherstone’s February column:

Dean FeatherstoneIt has taken a while to get to this juncture, where we as a school are considering changes to our curriculum.

Fifteen years ago, when we last revised our curriculum, we were ahead of the game. Other dental schools emulated the improvements we made.

But a couple of years ago, our faculty council suggested to our administration and me that we should consider making revisions. After more than a decade, it was time to take a serious look at our curriculum and educational framework.

This coincided with the adoption of our Strategic Plan being put into place. Excellence in education is a key part of the plan. 

In response, we convened the Curriculum Steering Committee in 2015, chaired by Dr. Sophia Saeed. The committee — Drs. Linda Centore, Mark Dellinges, Mike McMaster, Jennifer Perkins and Pinelopi Xenoudi, and ex-officio members Drs. Sheila Brear, Sara Hughes and Peter Sargent — has done a fantastic job, working diligently for the past two years to draft an outline, principles and direction for changing the way we teach and run our predoctoral clinics.

Curriculum Reform Town Halls
Monday, Feb. 13 - Cole Hall
Friday, Feb. 17 - D2009
Tuesday, Feb. 21 - Cole Hall
Thursday, Feb. 23 - HSW 303
Tuesday, March 7 - HSW 303
Wednesday, March 15 - N217
Friday, March 17 - D2009

These proposed changes are really exciting, and they now are ready for review and input from the School of Dentistry community. The committee will present these changes at a series of town hall meetings starting this month. See the accompanying box for a list of dates and locations — please make time to attend one and offer your feedback.

This stage of our curriculum reform coincides with the arrival of Dr. Hughes as associate dean for education and student affairs. Even in her short time with the School of Dentistry, Dr. Hughes has been and will continue to be a key player in the implementation of our curriculum changes.

(I’d also like to emphasize how excited I am to have Dr. Hughes — one of the world’s experts on dental education — on board here to shepherd this whole process toward ultimate success.)

Dr. Hughes will lead a close look at our school’s vision and strategy for education. In our strategic plan, we already have some very clear wording about what we want to do and where we want to go; that wording will be looked at, along with the committee’s recommendations for curriculum reform, to devise a unified plan for next steps.

Along this path, we will consult widely with faculty, students, researchers and other stakeholders, and interact with other schools on campus, to come up with a curriculum that is dynamic, responsive and, ultimately, the very best possible.

We especially want students to share their input. We want students to have the most excellent and rewarding learning experience possible. And, of course, we also seek to involve faculty. This revision offers some very exciting faculty development opportunities: for support, training to teach in more effective ways.

This process will take a couple of years to fully implement. Our next accreditation site visit also will take place in a little more than two years. During this time, we will be assembling our self-study documents: part of the process for accreditation in which we review and document everything we do, identify our weaknesses, identify how we intend to address those weaknesses. With all these processes converging, we hope to end up with a very exciting new plan for educating our students and running this aspect of the school.

It’s important to note that at this stage, nothing in this proposal is cast in stone. It is a living document. Learn more: Go to one of the town halls, and plan to visit the section of our school website that will link to the proposal documents.