Enhancing dental electives through participatory research

Niall Rogerson, Kate McKenna, Louise Robinson, Callum Wemyss, Jeremy Bagg, Catherine Bovill


Completion of an elective project at the University of Glasgow Dental School is a progression requirement that entails a period of self-directed and enquiry-led learning. This study sought to uncover students’ expectations and perspectives of their elective experience as there is a scarcity of supporting literature to determine if this activity has significant educational value. This qualitative study utilised a participatory research methodology,ensuring that students were at the centre of the enquiry process. Three student co-researchers analysed data collected from their peers, using a questionnaire and a focus group meeting. The findings support maintaining autonomous, enquiry-led, independent learning-focused electives and also highlight aspects of the elective which students particularly valued. This has allowed a deeper understanding of students’ perceptions of, and motivations for, particular elective projects, enabling the elective programme to respond to changing environments in education and global health. The outcomes of this study have informed the redesign of the dental elective study programme and the associated quality assurance process.


participatory research; enquiry-led learning; electives; international health electives; exposure prone procedures

Full Text:



Banerjee, A. (2010) ‘Medical electives: a chance for international health.’ Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 103, 6–8.

Becket, N. and Brookes, M. (2006) ‘Evaluating quality management in university departments.’ Quality Assurance in Education, 14(2), 123-142.

Bell, J. (2010) Doing your research project. Maidenhead: Open University Press, 140-157.

Bovill, C., Aitken, G., Hutchison, J., Morrison, F., Roseweir, K., Scott, A. and Sotannde, S. (2010) ‘Experiences of learning through collaborative evaluation from a postgraduate certificate in professional education.’ International Journal for Academic Development, 15(2).

Burnard, P., Gill, P., Stewart, K., Treasure, E. and Chadwick, B. (2008) ‘Analysing and presenting qualitative data.’ British Dental Journal, 204, 429-432.

Christians, C.G. (2011) ‘Ethics and politics in qualitative research.’ In: Denzin, N.K. (ed.), Lincoln, Y.S. (4th ed.). The SAGE Handbook of qualitative research. London: SAGE, 61-80.

Cohen, L., Manion, L. and Morrison, K. (2007) Research Methods in Education (6th ed.). London: Routledge.

Cook-Sather, A., Bovill, C. and Felten, P. (2014) Engaging students as partners in learning and teaching: a guide for faculty. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Cornwall, A. and Jewkes, R. (1995) ‘What is Participatory Research?’ Social Science and Medicine, 41(12), 1667-1676.

Dickson, M. and Dickson, G. (2005) ‘Volunteering: Beyond an act of charity.’ Journal of the Canadian Dental Association, 71, 865-869.

Dowell, J. and Merrylees, N. (2009) ‘Electives: isn’t it time for a change?’ Medical Education, 43, 121–126.

Edwards, P.J., Roberts, I., Clarke M.J., DiGuiseppi, C., Wentz, R., Kwan, I., Cooper, R., Felix, L.M. and Pratap, S. (2010) ‘Methods to increase response to postal and electronic questionnaires (Review).’ The Cochrane Collaboration and published in The Cochrane Library: 2010, 1, 1-12.

Edwards, R., Piachaud, J., Rowson, M. and Miranda, J. (2004) ‘Understanding global health issues: are international medical electives the answer?’ Medical Education, 38, 688–690.

Elit, L., Hunt, M., Redwood-Campbell, L., Ranford, J., Adelson, N. and Schwartz, L. (2011) ‘Ethical issues encountered by medical students during international health electives.’ Medical Education, 45, 704–711.

Gibbs, A. (1997) ‘Focus Groups.’ In: Social Research Update: Department of Sociology: University of Surrey, 19, 1-7. Guildford: University of Surrey.

Hall, B.L. (1981) ‘Participatory research, popular knowledge and power: a personal reflection.’ Convergence, 14 (3), 6-19.

Hall, B.L. (1992) ‘From Margins to Centre? The Development and Purpose of Participatory Research.’ American Sociologist, 15-28.

Han, S.J. and Quiñonez, C.R. (2013) ‘Dental Volunteerism: Is the Current Model Working?’ Journal of the Canadian Dental Association, 79(4), 205-207.

Hanson, L., Harms, S. and Plamondon, K. (2011) ‘Undergraduate International Medical Electives: Some Ethical and Pedagogical Considerations.’ Journal of Studies in International Education, 15(2), 171–185.

Kay, J., Dunne, E. and Hutchinson, J. (2010) Rethinking the values of higher education - students as change agents? The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. Available at: http://www.qaa.ac.uk/en/Publications/Documents/Rethinking-the-values-of-higher-education---students-as-change-agents.pdf. (Accessed: 01 June 2014).

Lichtman, M. (2013) Making Meaning from Your Data: Chapter 12. Qualitative Research in Education: A User’s Guide. London: SAGE.

Mercer, J. (2007) ‘The challenges of insider research in educational institutions: wielding a double-edged sword and resolving delicate dilemmas.’ Oxford Review of Education, 33(1), 1-17.

Moore, J. (2004) ‘Living in the Basement of the Ivory Tower: a graduate student’s perspective of participatory action research within academic institutions.’ Educational Action Research, 12(1), 145-162.

Olitsky, S. and Weathers, J. (2005) ‘Working with Students as Researchers: Ethical Issues of a Participatory Process.’ Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 6(1), 1-17.

Ritchie, J., Spencer, L. and O’Connor, W. (2005) ‘Carrying out Qualitative analysis.’ In: Ritchie, J. and Lewis, J. (eds.) Qualitative Research Practice: A Guide for Social Science Students and Researchers. London: SAGE.

Seale, J. (2010) ‘Doing student voice work in higher education: an exploration of the value of participatory methods.’ British Educational Research Journal, 36(6), 995-1015.

Smit, B.H.J. (2013) ‘Young people as co-researchers: enabling student participation in educational practice.’ Professional Development in Education, 39(4), 550-573.

Stoecker, R. and Bonacich, E. (1992) ‘Why Participatory Research?’ American Sociologist, 23(4), 5-10.

Taylor, P. and Wilding, D. (2009) Rethinking the values of higher education - the student as collaborator and producer? Undergraduate research as a case study. The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. Available at: http://dera.ioe.ac.uk/433/2/Undergraduate.pdf. (Accessed: 01 June 2014).

Thompson, M.J., Huntington, M.K., Hunt, D.D., Pinsky, L.E. and Brodie, J.J. (2003) ‘Educational Effects of International Health Electives on U.S. and Canadian Medical Students and Residents: A Literature Review.’ Academic Medicine, 78, 342-347.

Tyagi, S., Corbett, S. and Welfare, M. (2006) ‘Safety on elective: a survey on safety advice and adverse events during electives.’ Clinical Medicine, 6(2), 154-156.

Walmsley, A.D., White, D.A., Hobson, R. and Ensor, S. (2007) ‘The BDA Dental Academic Staff Group Student Elective Workshop.’ British Dental Journal, 203(4), 220-221.

Watson, S. (2003) ‘Closing the feedback loop: Ensuring effective action from student feedback.’ Tertiary Education and Management, 9(2), 145-157.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.21100/jeipc.v3i2.403


  • There are currently no refbacks.