The University of Queensland (AUSTRALIA)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2009 Proceedings
Publication year: 2009
Pages: 2287-2296
ISBN: 978-84-612-7578-6
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 3rd International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 9-11 March, 2009
Location: Valencia, Spain
Professional socialisation is an important process whereby an individual acquires values, knowledge, skills and a sense of professional identity as a member of a particular profession. A clearly defined professional identity and a positive professional self-perception are recognized as significant determining factors in relations to work-readiness, recruitment and retention, job satisfaction, work-related motivation and connectedness. A positive self-perception is associated with self-contentment , self-fulfilment and a sense of self-significance within the community and society. A well-defined professional identity and a positive self-perception develop over time. This is of relevance to the training of professionals in higher education.

The aim of this study is to examine the professional self-perceptions of second and final year students in the three-year Bachelor of Oral Health program, and to identify factors and learning strategies that positively enhance professional self-perception as well as those that negatively hinder professional self-perception. Students were asked to complete an anonymous questionnaire during class time. The questionnaire contained both open-ended and categorical questions. Analysis were performed quantitatively using descriptive statistics (Microsoft XCEL 2007) and qualitatively using computer-assisted content analysis (Leximancer v.2.25).

A total of thirty-five students participated in this study. Results indicate that students view themselves as both learners and evolving professionals, but consider the evolving professional status as more empowering in relations to self-confidence, professional development and work-readiness.

Factors and learning strategies that enhanced the development of professional self-perceptions are: recognition by staff as evolving professionals, expectation and support from staff to behave as evolving professionals, clinical experiences/placements, early introduction to the clinical setting, peer mentoring, clinical reflective discussions, professional workshops, clinical reflective journal, positive feedback regarding clinical and professional competence and participation in interprofessional learning activities. Factors and learning strategies that hinder the development of positive professional self-perceptions are: unconstructive criticisms, disrespect from staff, constant reminder of student status by staff, lecture-format of learning, negative feedback and unrealistic expectations from staff with respect to clinical and professional competence.

Professional identity and positive professional self-perceptions are important to undergraduate students in oral health and are developed over time.The development of students’ professional self-perception is fostered and improved through clinical learning experiences and supportive recognition from staff and peers. Curriculum changes should consider factors that enhance and hinder the development of positive professional self-perceptions and aim to foster the development of positive professional self-perceptions amongst students from the point of entry; with the long-term goal of preventing negative outcomes in relations to -readiness, recruitment and retention, job satisfaction, work-related motivation and connectedness.
professional identity, evolving professional, undergraduate student experience, oral health.