Date of Award

Spring 1979

Degree Type

Master's Essay - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Education (MEd)


Dentistry has always been considered an art as well as a science by those who practice it and by those who teach it. The scientific aspects include gathering data, making diagnoses, and formulating treatment plans. Each of these aspects is relatively systematic and objective to the practitioner. However the implementation, the act of preparing and restoring a cavity in a tooth, is largely art. Evaluation of art is a very subjective process involving individual judgments based on the predispositions of the evaluator. Traditionally students have received a letter grade for the psychomotor task of preparing and restoring a cavity in a tooth. If any feedback was given it generally reflected the instructor's personal preferences. (Yates, 1976). Instructors frequently have been taught, or have acquired, widely different evaluation procedures and criteria. The glance and grade system in which an overall grade is assigned encourages subjectivity and fails to inform the student of specific strengths and weaknesses. Many studies have shown that agreement among raters of cavity preparations and restorations is low. (Natkin, 1967) (Gaines, 1974). Surveys have also shown that inconsistent faculty evaluation is a significant source of discouragement as well as the major reason for the student decision to do just enough to get by. (Natkin, 1967). The consequences of behavior are probably the most important determinants of what is learned and of the efficiency of learning. When the consequences of behavior are reliable and consistent, learning tends to be predictable and efficient. Conversely, when they are inconsistent, learning tends to be unpredictable and inefficient. Therefore, efforts have been made to improve the reliability of faculty evaluations of student performance of psychomotor tasks. Specific types of cavity designs were described by G.V . Black as early as 1920. Over the years these basic forms have been used, with some modification, to judge the general quality of student cavity preparations. However, dental educators are in agreement that procedures in dentistry are complex in nature, depending upon the proper completion of the component parts in order to achieve an acceptable result. If teaching is to be effective, students 2 should be evaluated on each of the component parts of the task utilizing specific criteria for each discrete step. Benefits should be derived from stating the specific criteria to be met by the students and by requiring raters to judge preparations on each criterion. Several studies (Natkin, 1967) (Gaines, 1974) (Ryge, 1973) (Houpt, 1973) have shown that precise definition has brought about higher agreement among raters. Furthermore, in order to become qualified practitioners, dental students must learn the criteria for ideal products and be able to judge when these criteria have been met. It appears there is an assumption that the practicing dentist possesses this crucially important ability to appraise his/her own skills without receiving formal training, since this attribute or skill is rarely considered in the dental curriculum.