Assessing dental student experience with an asynchronous online course on racism and cultural competence

ByMike V. Cooper

Apr 26, 2022

This article was originally published here

J Dent Educ. 2022 Apr 26. doi:10.1002/jdd.12943. Online ahead of print.


OBJECTIVE: The University of Pennsylvania School of Dentistry and the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice (SP2) have designed an asynchronous online course on racism and cultural competence to respond to student concerns about harmful interactions with peers of all races/ethnicities. The Penn Experience course establishes common language and concepts to facilitate difficult conversations about racism in classrooms and clinical spaces.

METHODS: The course included six modules dealing with the history of racism in the Philadelphia area and at the University of Pennsylvania: implicit bias and microaggression; racism and other forms of oppression; gender identity and sexuality; the construction of the ideology of whiteness and white supremacy; cultural humility, disparities and equity; and access to health care. Students completed pre- and post-course surveys about their likelihood of engaging in the neighborhood surrounding Penn, their confidence discussing the topics covered, and their overall experience with the course.

RESULTS: Four hundred and forty-nine students completed post-class surveys, 220 of which could be linked to pre-class survey responses. The overwhelming majority of students reported a positive experience with the course, an increase in their likelihood of engaging with the Penn Neighborhood, and increased confidence in discussing course topics with their peers. Many students suggested incorporating synchronous discussion, while a small group expressed resentment over the emphasis on whiteness, white fragility, and anti-black racism. Several students of color expressed concern that the course focused on the learning needs of white students.

CONCLUSION: Asynchronous online content provides an effective and efficient way to teach dental students the basics of cultural competence. Educators must anticipate the resistance of some white students and the distinct learning needs of students of color.

PMID:35470902 | DO I:10.1002/jdd.12943