Integration of Civic Engagement Pedagogies in the STEM Disciplines

Integration of Civic Engagement Pedagogies in the STEM Disciplines

Gwen Cohen Brown (New York City College of Technology, City University of New York, USA) and Laina Karthikeyan (New York City College of Technology, City University of New York, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2214-2.ch012
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This chapter discusses the development and implementation of an interdisciplinary learning community between the departments of Dental Hygiene and Biological Sciences, correlating nutrition with oral health and oral cancer and its prevention by early screening. The goal of the project was to engage underrepresented, urban undergraduate students in civic learning, with an eye toward expanding learning capacities and civic responsibilities beyond the classroom. The project followed participation in the 2010 Summer Institute offered by the National Science Foundation’s Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities (SENCER). Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology integrates basic science curriculum and applies this unified foundation knowledge to the clinical evaluation of disease, thereby closing the gap between didactic and applied material. Dental Hygiene students enrolled in Nutrition and Anatomy and Physiology will learn to connect this knowledge gained with practical application outside the natural sciences, which in turn will make these courses more interesting and relevant.
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Setting The Stage

The Dental Hygiene program at New York City College of Technology had its first graduating class in 1949. Since that time, the scope of practice as well as the face of the profession has changed dramatically. Dental hygienists are a fundamental part of the oral health care team and the current curriculum as well as licensing criteria reflects this transformation. Dental Hygiene students graduate with an Associate in Applied Science Degree and provide educational, clinical, and therapeutic services to the public on site at City Tech in the Dental Hygiene Clinic.

Students in the health fields are in a hurry to get through the general education and basic science prerequisite and co-requisite classes required by the majors and they often find these classes boring, frustrating, and ultimately unnecessary. Currently students rush through them, giving their content little importance, so they can get on to the discipline specific programs they came to the college to study. They do not see the necessity of general education; specifically the roles prerequisite and co-requisite curricula play in their dental hygiene education.

The knowledge gained through the general education and basic science curriculum is viewed as ‘other’ or separate from knowledge gained in the major. Therefore, it has inherently less value or worth to the student. The result of which is a disconnection between knowledge derived from English, Mathematics Biology and Sociology, pre-requisites for admission to the Dental Hygiene program, and the knowledge gained within the discipline. This separation results in a dichotomy for the students, they need good grades in these courses to be admitted to the program but they do not see how the didactic material learned in the pre and co-requisite courses can affect their progress in the Dental Hygiene major.

Students want to get on the clinic floor and start treating patients as soon as possible; however, discipline knowledge and technical skills are not what makes one a successful dental hygienist. Without critical thinking skills learned within the general education curriculum, dental hygiene students will be less able to effectively integrate and apply didactic knowledge in the clinical care of patients. Targeted General education issues facing Dental Hygiene Students include: English usage, written and oral communication skills, reading and vocabulary, computer skills, basic mathematic functions and test taking proficiency. We know our students need to possess the skills taught in the pre and co-requisite curriculum to survive and thrive in a competitive workplace. The bigger picture is that they need to be taught in a manner so that students wishing to gain entrance to competitive allied health programs can understand their value.

As faculty, we need our students to ‘own’ the general education and basic science foundation knowledge, as it is the scaffolding the allied health disciplines are built upon. The concepts and principles taught in the general education and Science Technology Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum must move from being classroom content alone to knowledge that is applied in the care of patients. Students will become more engaged in general education and the basic science prerequisite and co-requisite classes if ‘real-world’ issues, issues of importance to students going into the allied health fields, became the core, or centerpiece, of this curriculum.

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