Study published in JDE finds gender differences in dental students’ self-assessments

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 study published in the Journal of Dental Education (JDE), a peer-reviewed monthly journal that publishes a wide variety of educational and scientific research in dental, allied dental and advanced dental education.

The study, “The effect of gender on student self-assessment skills in operative preclinical dentistry”, 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, United States (US).

“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 authors of the study, which will be published in the September issue of JDE but is now available online, are David L. Kornmehl, BS; Ruchika Agrawal, BS; Jacqueline R. Harris, BS; and Aisha K. Ba, BS (all with the Harvard School of Dental Medicine in Boston, MA, US); Eshani Patel, DMD, (VA Loma Linda Healthcare System in Loma Linda, CA, US) and Hiroe Ohyama, DDS, MMSc, PhD, DMD (Department of Restorative Dentistry and Biomaterials Sciences, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, US).

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 the student-faculty (S-F) gap was 8.28% for males and 6.08% 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,” according to the article. “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.”