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Responsibility in dental praxis: An activity theoretical perspective

Purpose: This paper investigates the transitions practitioners undergo as they move from dental school to their first job in a dental clinic and their learning in the workplace. We investigated their use of ethical principles as they engage in practice providing a theoretical explanation for the gap practitioners experience when moving from the school to the workplace, also suggesting some viable alternatives for dental education.
Design/Methodology/Approach: The database for this study consists of videotaped interviews with dentists. To analyze our data we followed the principles of Interaction Analysis, analyzing the data both individually and collectively, until some hypotheses were generated. Then, we used discourse analysis to analyze the interviews.
Findings:From an activity theoretical perspective our results show that dentists can and do learn ethical principles when working in their dental clinics, interacting with patients, and our findings and suggestions are of especial interest for curriculum planning and development in educational institutions.
Practical Implications: This study suggests that theoretical discussions about ethics are not enough to provide practitioners with the skills necessary to work ethically when interacting with patients. From our findings we suggest a complementary approach to teach ethics in dental schools.
Originality/Value: Workplace learning has become a preferred topic within many disciplines, such as, for example, sociology, education, and anthropology. However, although there is an established field of medical sociology, little if any attention on workplace learning has been paid to the health sciences in general and dentistry in particular.

Ardenghi, D. M., Roth, W.-M., & Pozzer-Ardenghi, L. (2007). Responsibility in dental praxis: An activity theoretical perspective. Journal of Workplace Learning, 19 (4), 240-255.

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