Gender differences found in dental students’ self-assessments

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Male dental students overestimate their performance more significantly than females, and both genders self-assess their skills more positively compared to scores given by faculty, according to a US study.

The study by a team at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine in Boston, MA—and published in the Journal of Dental Education—focused on third-year dental students from six class years (Classes of 2016-2021), and its participants included students at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine.

“Recognising factors that affect self-assessment ability is important because dentists must learn to accurately evaluate their clinical work in order to improve through self-directed learning,” the authors wrote. 

“The results of this study illustrate that self-assessment skills differ between males and females, with males on average overestimating their performances to a greater extent than females in operative preclinical dentistry.”

The results of the study, according to the authors, fall in line with previous studies that show gender differences in self-assessments in other health care training settings.

The student self-assessments used the same rubrics as faculty on four operative dentistry competency examination procedures: Class II amalgam preparation and restoration and Class III resin-composite preparation and restoration.

The study found that what it called the student-faculty (S-F) gap was 8.28 per cent for males and 6.08 per cent for females. The S-F gap is defined as the difference between the student’s self-assessment score and the faculty’s mean grade.

“Knowledge of the findings in this study may allow faculty to be aware of how gender impacts self-assessment, which may impact curriculum design and implementation,” the authors wrote. 

“By recognising and addressing gender differences in self-assessment at earlier stages of dental training, a more equitable learning environment can be created. In addition to increasing faculty awareness, male and female students may be more attuned to their cognitive biases and become more conscious of them during self-assessment.”

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