Understanding oral hygiene knowledge and curriculum issues at training institutions in South Africa.

Vergotine, Glynnis
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Higher Education is influenced by society and workplace demands, which affects the structure of curricula. The literature review exposed a lack of understanding of knowledge in the Oral Hygiene occupational field. This led to a call to understand which knowledge is most valued by the Oral Hygienist and how it affects professional development. This necessitated the examination of knowledge located in curricula. The aim of this study was to study the perceptions of South African Oral Hygiene lecturers and the organisation of knowledge in curricula, in order to learn about current attempts to professionalise the field. The study makes use of a qualitative descriptive design. The study population is based at two universities, consisted of full-time lecturers teaching Oral Hygiene. Data collection and analysis comprised three methods: semi-structured questionnaires to examine the lecturers’ perceptions about knowledge; curriculum analysis gathering information about the curricula making use of a knowledge type analysis tool developed from the conceptual framework; and examination question analysis to assess the recontextualisation of knowledge from concepts or everyday knowledge of practice. The results show a comparison of lecturers’ perceptions and the organisation of knowledge in the curriculum suggest that although it is clear that the lecturers aspire to professionalise the field, the curricula and their own research identities promote the preparation of practitioners with technical skills. This is shown (inter alia) in the following findings about both curricula: ‘clinical applied knowledge’ is highly valued (UNIV1-73% and UNIV2-53%) with a small amount of time spent on ‘pure’ knowledge (UNIV1-8% and UNIV2-12%). The point to be made here is, that an emphasis on ‘Clinical Applied knowledge’ suggests that a large amount of time is spent on covering procedures for practice, which in turn is an indication that the two curricula are inclined towards preparing students for an occupational model of practice. The lecturers’ research identity focuses on knowledge borrowed from clinical practice. Lecturers use a unifying concept for practice and believe they are experts in clinical teaching. In conclusion, examining South African lecturers’ current views of the Oral Hygiene knowledge base and studying its organisation within different curricula reveal that the knowledge most valued in the field is Clinical Applied knowledge with less emphasis on pure knowledge and knowledge applied from the sciences. This study highlights that lecturers aspire to professionalise the field, even though curricula promote the preparation of practitioners with technical skills.
Oral hygiene, Knowledge, Curriculum, Professionalism