Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Two Things

Thing 1: Reading Assignments

Ok, I’m all for learning, I mean I technically am a 20th grader – but I don’t understand some of the philosophies exhibited by our instructors. I mean, these people (for the most part) ALL went to dental school and should remember just exactly how little time you have to casually read 50 pages of journal articles in a single week. Don’t get me wrong, certain TEXT books are great adjuncts to lecture (example = Torabinejad/Walton Endo text). Where I get steamed is all these damn research articles. I weep for the incoming classes if this is how they are expected to learn.

I completely understand the validity of assessing research, but this is not nearly as applicable to learning itself. For example, in our Ortho class, we are commonly assigned 3-5 journal articles to read prior to having the lecture on said topic. Now anyone that has read any sort of scientific journal completely understand how DRY and BORING this type of writing is (UNLESS you are knowledgeable and interested). If I don’t know anything about the physics and biomechanical properties of tooth movement, how can I possibly be expected to cram down 5 journal articles when I have had ZERO exposure to this topic in class? Hell, even if I was in love with ortho, I would have trouble finishing that WHILE managing to not fail all the other assorted classes and busy work they have me doing. It may be just me, but I really can’t get through research based articles without having ANY background about the topic beforehand. I get that we need to learn this stuff, but it can literally take a good hour or two to read one article thoroughly and actually comprehend even when you are familiar with the subject. So when am I going to find an extra 10 hours out of my week to read ortho papers? It simply isn’t going to happen.

Now for an example of how research articles can be used effectively. In our fixed prosthodontics class, articles are used to enhance our learning efficiently, not bog us down. For example, we were given a lecture on pontics earlier this semester – afterwards, we were given two research articles to read with an accompanying question sheet. The questions asked were all found in the articles and relevant to the main points of the lecture. I actually enjoyed reading these articles because we had just been exposed to the topic and I actually could follow the articles coherently without teaching myself everything for the first time. We are often given 1-2 weeks to read these articles and then given a quiz which reflects MANY of the questions already provided. So yea, just two examples on the same philosophy – but one is done well, while the other expects me to read at the same rate as a cyborg.

Thing 2: Dragging grade distribution out

So I just was praising fixed; now I can get pissed at it. This last Wednesday we got our performance exam grades back for our 3-unit bridge provisionals. Only it got dragged out FOREVER. Let me preface this by adding that the grading in this class is VERY tough. Much harder than any other performance exam-based course. I generally do well on PEs but last semester (as rabid fans may recall) failed the first exam and got a 71% on the second. So needless to say, I was a bit stressed out for fear of bombing the third of this gruesome quartet.

8am: We have 1 hour of OS lecture..everyone is thinking…crap..I hope I passed fixed.

9am: Fixed course director comes in, tells us she will get to the exam later – proceeds to lecture about the next project. It is pretty hard to concentrate on the next leg of your academic journey when you still aren’t sure if you survived the last ordeal.

9:30: Director finishes presentation and proceeds to say: “Ok, now for the exams…what was wrong guys? Did you have a bad day? 33 of you failed, that is 50% of the class. You are setting new records in my course, and not the good ones. I am very worried.”

Ok..can we see if we failed yet..NO. She starts showing all these statistics about HOW we did terribly (the failing breakdown if you will).

10:00 – we get into the pre-clinic to start the days project..we don’t have our dentechs because they were being graded

10:15 – still no teachers or dentechs

10:30 – teachers trickle in, dentechs are distributed with NO grades.

10:45 – Some students get grades. I see little dances or looks of utter devastation. The end is near.

11:00 – I FINALLY, FINALLY get my grade. While I did all right in the end, I must have aged about 2 years just waiting.

Point being – PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE GIVE GRADES OUT BEFOREHAND. I honestly cannot focus on anything when I know grades are done, yet I still for some reason can’t see them. The actual percentage really isn’t what keeps me worried, but the fear of having to redo a 3-hour exam is not appealing at all – especially considering how busy things tend to get at the end of the semester.

I would like to add the disclaimer that the instruction in this class is generally pretty damn good. Although the nit-picking can get very frustrating at times, I know in the long run – it will make me better clinically (or at least give me a great eye for when things are not good). I also feel like I finally understand crown preps and how to work with acrylic. I don’t know what happened over winter break, but everything seems much easier. I am not horribly reducing my line angles and I am getting provisionals done faster and faster.

And with the rant out of the way, I shall continue my nice lazy spring break which is barely even 1/2-way over...ahhhhh.