• active learning;
  • adult education;
  • healthcare;
  • problem-based learning


Background:  In July 2008, The General Dental Council implemented mandatory registration for Dental Nurses in the United Kingdom, recognising them as legally responsible for patient care. As dentistry comes to terms with the impact registration has on dental nurses, sustained advances in the teaching of students in other healthcare disciplines demonstrate the way in which the role of pedagogy in dental nurse education has been underdeveloped. In an attempt to see dental nursing stand in line with other progressive healthcare professionals, the authors have implemented Problem-Based Learning (PBL) into a dental nurse program in NHS Education for Scotland, Glasgow.

Aim:  The aim of the research is to assess the perceptions of dental nurse students with regard to participation in active learning.

Materials and Methods:  The study is facilitated by a short PBL package which offers introductory exposure to this method of learning. A qualitative approach has been taken to gather experiential data using a questionnaire. Thematic analysis took place to reveal emergent themes.

Results:  Analysis reveals that the participants found PBL to be an enjoyable experience that could be valuable in the acquisition of deep knowledge and improved patient care. The participants raised concerns with regard to confidence in their own knowledge acquisition in PBL sessions and highlighted a need for improved feedback.

Discussion and conclusion:  While the participants enjoyed the self directed nature of PBL, it is important to note that the need for facilitator guidance was considered imperative, especially where the students had little or no experience of PBL, as in this study.