Internationalisation at home: Global citizenship in dentistry – Chu Chun Hung
Internationalisation has been one of the four I’s that underpin HKU’s commitment to Asia’s Global University, along with interdisciplinarity, innovation, and impact. In dentistry, developing global citizenship and intercultural communication among students is becoming increasingly important. Our graduates may choose to practice in countries or places other than Hong Kong. Even within Hong Kong, they will serve clients from different countries and cultural backgrounds. Knowing different practices and school of thoughts as well as being able to communicate properly with different people are essential competencies. The development of these competencies should be part of our dental education.
To enable the development of these competencies at home, we have developed the Global Citizenship in Dentistry (GCD) project and built an online platform of GCD (http://ipr.hku.hk/index.php) for students to enter into a professional community with other dental students from other universities worldwide. We believe that peer interactions are one of the best ways for students to learn about the practices in other countries. With this online platform, there is no need to travel while student interactions are guaranteed through a set of meaningful tasks.
Each student is required to construct his or her professional profile by working on a letter of introduction, an assignment and a blog. The assignment is about operative procedures in a Powerpoint format on one of the following topics: (1) Anterior composite restoration involving incisal edge; (2) Posterior composite restoration involving proximal surface; and (3) Posterior amalgam restoration involving proximal surface. Their work is shared with their international peers through the GCD online platform. Being grouped in dedicated learning communities consisting of three to four students each, students exchange and critique one another’s case presentations.
A major benefit to students is their better awareness of different approaches to the same clinical problem and the rationale behind these approaches. Being exposed to a variety of approaches and rationales, students are more capable of reflecting on their own operative work and gradually become more confident in their own school’s education. Their increased confidence is evident in their performance in defending conclusions in an evidence-based format. An additional learning outcome for students is to use multimedia tools for professional purposes, for example, processing clinical photographs.
The rewards of GCD are not limited to students. Faculty members also greatly benefit from being involved in the process. They not only have a better understanding of the different school of thoughts and procedures, but also enhance their pedagogical development in the aspects of facilitating peer learning and professional development.
Based on the GCD project and the learning process, I am confident to say that internationalsation and interdisciplinarity can add great value to dental education. Internationalisation enables the development of professional identity of our students in a peer learning environment. Building international professional networks through the platform can be our students’ first step to become a dentist. Interdisciplinarity is essential for the pedagogical development in the Faculty of Dentistry. Nowadays dental education receives more and more attention of scholars around the world. Two important journals in this field are European Journal of Dental Education and Journal of Dental Education. A closer collaboration with Faculty of Education will be highly beneficial in promoting scholarship of teaching and learning.
The ways forward are to work with more universities and further increase the diversity in the peer learning environment that we create for our students. Certainly these initiatives are not without challenges. We are training dentists while each society has different sets of professional standards for dentists. Negotiations between different schools on the design of the curriculum, the course and graduate requirements, as well as school terms are critical to scale up the project.
I would like to end the article with a concluding remark about the future of dental education. In this new era, dental education is facing opportunities and challenges. We as faculty members need to adopt pedagogies that are attuned to the new learning environment and our learners. In previous days, dental operations were taught through apprenticeship while nowadays numerous video clips are available online for students to learn anytime and anywhere. It would not be rational to stay unchanged in this evolving society. Pursuing internationalisation and interdisciplinarity should be the directions forward.