• dental educational environment;
  • Dundee Ready Educational Environment Measure;
  • Bachelor of Dental Surgery;
  • students' perceptions;
  • questionnaire;
  • curriculum



To examine the ‘Expected’ and ‘Actual’ educational environment experienced by a cohort of Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) students at the University of Otago's Faculty of Dentistry using the Dundee Ready Educational Environment Measure (DREEM).


Cohort members were asked to complete five DREEM surveys over the four-year BDS programme. Student expectations at the beginning of their first year were assessed using a modified version of the DREEM questionnaire, while following (standard) DREEM questionnaires at the end of each professional year addressed students' ‘Actual’ perception of the educational environment.


Sixty-six students (99%) completed at least one questionnaire. Overall, the BDS students' perceptions of their educational environment tended to be positive and students identified both perceived strengths and weaknesses in the BDS programme. However, more negative than positive shifts were reported between the ‘Expected’ and ‘Actual’ individual DREEM individual items, suggesting that BDS students initially expected more from their educational environment than they actually experienced. Individual DREEM outcomes undergoing negative and positive shifts differed over the years and varied in number. These may be explained, in part, by changes in the curriculum focus from year to year.


The students' changing DREEM responses over time revealed anticipated and perceived strengths and weaknesses of the BDS curriculum, as well as shifts in students' perceptions in response to curricular changes. However, our findings highlight the potential usefulness for dental education of a measure for use that takes the unique aspects of the dental education environment into account.