Earlier this month, the Faculty of Dental Surgery held a two-day seminar for all academic staff at the Valletta campus. The motive for organising this seminar was to further foster participation and open communication amongst the Faculty’s academics on issues that concern the entire Faculty, thereby bringing about streamlining and enhancing synchronisation at both inter- and intra-departmental levels.
While the seminar made for some much-needed physical participation and social interaction, all Covid-19 precaution measures were taken with face coverings, frequent hand sanitisation and social distancing being enforced. A few academics who were unable to attend physically were given the opportunity to participate online to ensure maximum participation in this important seminar.
The seminar kicked off by discussing the current academic curriculum of the undergraduate Master of Dental Surgery course and the necessary updates to maintain its currency. The previous periodic programme review served as a starting point for this dialogue and academics discussed emerging trends in the profession that call for a renewal of the curriculum. The role of the translational research, conducted by Faculty academics, in shaping the curriculum and activities was emphasized.
In line with discussing the curriculum, teaching methodology, student clinical practice requirements as well as modes of assessment were also reviewed. While the Faculty has already gone a long way with its system of continuous student formative assessment, a number of valid suggestions were put forward for taking this system a step further.
Being that the Faculty runs dental teaching clinics in which its students offer patients a range of dental services, the seminar also focused discussion on its patient base and the methods used for treatment planning and patient distribution amongst the students. Student concerns gathered via a pre-seminar student questionnaire were shared and discussed. Additionally, the clinical detection and management of dental caries were given the spotlight – a topic which is as old as mankind and of significant importance in the teaching and practice of dentistry and which is constantly changing and giving rise to some controversy within the profession. A very fruitful discussion has set the basis for further collaboration between the various departments with the aim of streamlining the teaching of the vast topic of cariology within the Faculty.
The seminar also addressed best practices to enhance learning and teaching, especially in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. Academics took the opportunity to prepare themselves for the next intake of students while aligning themselves with the latest clinical guidelines and procedures enacted by the Faculty taskforce over spring and summer to mitigate the challenges brought about by the pandemic. While this has been quite an adaptive and transformative period for all, the Faculty felt the need to facilitate this process as the pandemic runs its course, in order to ensure continuity while safeguarding its students, staff and patients.
Prof. Nikolai Attard, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the University of Malta, expressed his gratitude towards his extremely responsive colleagues, including the non-academic staff, who have steadfastly worked towards ensuring the success of their high-achieving students. He noted that the discussions at this seminar were very open and everyone, including administrative and clinical support staff, had an opportunity to present their viewpoints on the changes necessary in the immediate to short-term future.
This very productive seminar promises to be one of a series. The academics’ high attendance, the high level of interaction and involvement, as well as the positive feedback received by the Faculty for this initiative, augur well for similar events to be held in the future. Such seminars actively promote better education, learning and career development of students and academics alike, within a Faculty that continues to strive to deliver the highest standards.