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Keywords:

  • reflective learning;
  • clinical practice;
  • professional development;
  • oral health;
  • dental hygiene practice

Abstract

Context:  A clinical professional should be a reflective practitioner, however reflective learning and deliberate clinical reflections have not traditionally featured in dentistry or dental hygiene programs. To the authors’ knowledge, there are no studies exploring the perceptions of oral health students to reflective learning and clinical reflective practices.

Aim:  This study determined student perceptions of clinical reflective learning and its relevance to their clinical and professional development.

Methods:  Reflective learning was embedded as a topic in the curriculum of the University of Queensland Bachelor of Oral Health program, within the discipline of dental hygiene practice. Reflective practices were integrated with clinical practice, and were linked with assessment requirements. Students’ perceptions of clinical reflective learning were obtained via quantitative and qualitative analyses of sequenced questionnaires. Computer-assisted thematic analyses of the students’ reflective journals, reflective essays and summary notes from in-class group discussions validated students’ perceptions.

Results:  Students (n = 17) perceived clinical reflective learning as relevant, and useful for consolidating their clinical learning and accelerating their professional development. In particular, students gained insights about their strengths and weaknesses, thought more deeply about what they were doing in the clinic, and unpacked difficult concepts.

Conclusion:  Students views of clinical reflective learning in this program were positive. They believed that the deliberate reflective process assisted their clinical learning and professional development.