A US study has found a correlation between curriculum and stress among dental students. The study—which was launched in 2013— is by researchers at the University of New England (UNE) College of Dental Medicine.
Their study is published in the Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning and is one of just a handful that have examined not only the pressures students have to cope with in dental schools, but also the possible factors that trigger such stress in the first place.
The study determined the effects the curriculum had on first- and second-year dental students and has since led to changes in the college’s own curriculum in the hope that it would aid in alleviating stress among students.
“My primary interest is educational research,” lead researcher Dr Yang Kang said. “I want to help students address their challenges in dental school.”
The cross-sectional study analysed data collected from 64 first-year and 63 second-year students during the fall and spring semesters of the 2015‒2016 academic year. By using questionnaires, the researchers assessed information regarding the participants’ demographic information and stressors related to the curriculum.
The study revealed that second-year students experienced more anxiety overall in comparison to first-year students, especially during the spring semester. In general, first-year students who lived with immediate family felt less stressed than their second-year counterparts.
Age was another factor associated with stress, with students aged 25 and over experiencing less stress than their younger classmates.
Besides identifying the demographic factors, the study provided valuable insights on the development of the current curriculum in a newly established school, which resulted in curriculum modifications, such as the rescheduling of certain courses and changing a course’s credit value.
These modifications are intended to help students better balance their personal lives and the course’s intense workload. The observations could also help develop student support systems in the near future.