University of Sydney Handbooks - 2013 Archive

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Further Information

  1. Delivery of the program
  2. Outline of the curriculum
  3. Learning
  4. Assessment
  5. Foundations of Total Patient Care (TPC)
  6. Honours
  7. Electives

Delivery of the program

Learning in years 1 and 2 of the program is integrated across dental and medical disciplines and between years; understanding and knowledge are built progressively in a relevant context.

Each week of learning is based on the presentation of a clinical problem which students address cooperatively in small groups. Students are challenged to identify key issues for learning and to seek out and share knowledge that will progress the group's collective understanding. In years 1 and 2 three tutorials will be held each week at the Sydney Dental Hospital. These tutorials form the basis of the students' learning.

The learning process provides the background necessary for reasoning through issues and applying knowledge to resolve clinical problems in practice. It is essential that students progress systematically to become independent learners. They must be able to evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses realistically, and to identify personal learning needs. Those skills underpin successful professional practice and lifelong learning.

On the Camperdown Campus, most lectures and other laboratory sessions are shared with medical students. Some classes and seminars, however, are specifically designed for dental students. Some problems to be studied towards the end of second year focus explicitly on fundamental oral issues.

In the latter two years of the program, the problems will continue to be presented, but will be centred on more complex dental issues. They will however often involve medically-compromised patients as encountered in daily community or hospital practice, in order to reinforce and apply earlier learning.

High-level communication and technical skills are essential for successful dental practice. For each week of the first two years, students attend the Sydney Dental Hospital for a busy clinical day. They consider relevant basic dental issues in a case-based context and learn many specific dental skills in the laboratory, in simulation and in the clinics. As a crucial part of professional training, students are encouraged to assess their own progress and to evaluate the work of their peers. As students progressively demonstrate basic proficiency, they move to the dental clinics to apply their skills.

Towards the end of the first year, and at the end of the second year, students attend Westmead Hospital and the Westmead Centre for Oral Health, maintaining the pattern of problem-based learning. The hospital experience will offer particular opportunities for students to gain experience in medical as well as in dental settings. Medical skills, including those essential for dealing with emergencies, will be taught in the Clinical Skills Centre at Westmead Hospital.

Outline of the curriculum

The program is integrated and designed to develop student knowledge, skills and professionalism progressively over four years. In order to achieve those aims, four areas of study have been identified:

  • Life Sciences (LS)
  • Total Patient Care (TPC)
  • Professional and Community Practice (PCP)
  • Honours or Electives

The program can be conceptualised as occurring in three broad

  • an introduction of 8 weeks – the foundation learning block that is
    preceded by an orientation week
  • the body systems – the remainder of the first two years (62 weeks)
  • dental clinical placements and rotations in a range of settings –
    the last two years.

The curriculum is arranged into blocks, following the organisational sequence of the program.

Year 1
                Block 1 Block 2 Block 3 Block 4 Block 5
LS Foundation Studies Drug & Alcohol / Musculo-skeletal Science Respiration Haematology


vascular Sciences

TPC Normal Oral Health and Structure Recognising oral disease Introductory management of an Oral Disease Dental Materials and Technology Revision of Oral Structures
Year 2
  Block 6 Block 7  Block 8 Block 9 Block 10A


Endocrine, Nutrition, Oral Biosciences Renal, Urology, Caries


enterology & Nutrition

Oncology  & Palliative Care
TPC Assessment of Dental Pain Restoration and occlusion Growth and development, restoration Assessment, diagnosis and treatment planning Restoration
Year 3
  Block 10B Block 11 Block 12 Block 13 Block 14

Care of the Acute Patient

Prevention and Oral Rehabilitation  Care of the Child and Adolescent  Surgery and advanced techniques  Oral Medicine and Oro-Facial Pain 
Year 4
  Block 15 Block 16 Block 17 Block 18 Block 19
LS Advanced Care  Gerodontics & Special Care  Sustainable Oral Rehabilitation  Professional Dental Practice  Rural Care 


(1) Problem-based learning

The problem-based tutorials are designed to develop the students' clinical reasoning abilities, to enhance their skills in working in groups and to introduce many relevant aspects of the content knowledge and skills within the three areas of study in an integrated fashion. Each week in Years 1 and 2, students are introduced to a clinical problem (usually relating to a particular patient) and the process of thinking through the problem provides the core of the week's activities. Tutors act as facilitators of the reasoning process rather than as subject experts. Two meetings are held each week to develop and discuss the problems.

In Years 3 and 4, the cases relate to patients experiencing oral health problems.

(2) Learner-centred studies

During the first two years, students are helped to develop their skills in locating and acquiring information in textbooks, journals and on the web after defining the learning topics in the problem-based tutorials. Key skills in determining the validity and usefulness of the information will be acquired through these years.

By the time of entry into Year 3, students are expected to be increasingly independent in their capacity to direct their own learning and to locate essential information efficiently.

(3) Area of study sessions and lectures

Lectures provide a broader context for the students' formal learning and provide background understanding to assist in the resolution of the weekly problem. In Years 1 and 2, up to six lectures are held each week.

Sessions are offered within each area of study and reading matter may be recommended for preparation beforehand. Life Sciences sessions in Years 1 and 2 usually offer opportunities to gain hands-on practical experience and to learn from images, models, slides and museum or dissected specimens. In Years 3 and 4, science updates, advanced seminars and sessions with dental images are utilised.

Sessions run within Professional and Community Practice are diverse, and include aspects of personal development, evidence-based practice, ethics and management issues, as well as the community perspective on oral health issues.

The activities organised within the Total Patient Care area of study occur in the dental hospitals as described below.

(4) Evidence-based practice

There is a major focus on the critical appraisal of evidence to underpin clinical decision-making throughout the program. From the start, students learn the skills of identifying and appraising the literature. In later years, they apply the skills learned in making clinical decisions to the diagnosis and management of individual patients with whom they interact.

(5) Team approach to practice

The focus is on the comprehensive care of the patients, and on continuity of care. Students will be members of a dental team under the guidance of a staff member, and will treat patients assigned to them, according to the skills of the individual team members. Although the core teams are based on third-year students, more senior and also junior students may, from time to time, contribute. Case conferences and presentations to the team will be used to maintain an overview of patients under treatment.


Assessment has been designed for students to meet the goals of the program. By emphasising support for learning, the assessment system ensures that students achieve an acceptable level of competence in all areas of study. A key concern is to encourage students to develop their ability to evaluate their own progress and learning needs - both academic and clinical - in preparation for a life-time of learning in professional practice. Ongoing formative assessment that provides appropriate, sensitive and timely feedback to individuals and groups.

Formative written assessments in Years 1 and 2 provide opportunities for students to review the knowledge gained to date. Questions are set in the context of clinical presentations, medical and dental. The formats and types of questions are similar to those ultimately used summatively which determine progression. Participation in formative assessments is compulsory, but the results remain the property of the students themselves. Students are thus encouraged to evaluate their own performance and seek help as appropriate.

The precise timing, nature and scope of both summative or barrier assessments and formative assessments are made explicit to all students at the beginning of each year. Up-to-date information is presented on eLearning/Blackboard.

Detailed information about assessment can be found in the Faculty of Dentistry Assessment and Progression Policy

Foundations of Total Patient Care (TPC)

(1) Dental competencies Years 1 and 2

The weekly program in the dental teaching hospitals introduces students to dental skills in laboratories and simulation settings as well as dental clinics on Wednesdays (Year 1) and Thursdays (Year 2). An emphasis on self-assessment will encourage the development of professional skills. Students will be helped to acquire sensitive and effective skills in communicating with patients, and to develop professional communication with colleagues and teachers.

There are opportunities to practice and to gain some medical experience with access to selected patients and to the skills laboratory when students are at Westmead Hospital.

(2) Dental compentencies Years 3 and 4

A structured teaching program is planned to extend throughout this part of the course. Each day in Year 3 will start with a discipline-based session, lectures, case presentations, seminars and discussions. In Year 4, formal teaching will be necessarily reduced as the students will be on at least two sites, videoconferencing can be used to link the two major sites. In BDent 4 the Rural Placement Program provides an opportunity for a month-long placement in a public dental clinic in a rural/regional location in NSW.


The Faculty of Dentistry, in recognition of meritorious performance, offers an honours program for BDent candidates. The honours program is a 12 credit point unit of study which is taken as an alternative to the elective program and each of these is integrated into the BDent program. The honours program comprises a significant research project, however outstanding clinical achievement is also a requirement for the award.

An honours degree provides greater opportunities after graduation and will make you more competitive when seeking employment among graduates without honours degrees. Honours will reflect that you have developed research and analytical skills which are more advanced to those of pass degree candidates, and that you developed superior organisational and time management skills to complete the honours program simultaneously with the demands of the BDent program.
Honours will also provide an advantage when applying for postgraduate study.

(1) Eligibility for honours

Detailed eligibility requirements are outlined in the Bachelor of Dentistry Honours Policy.

(2) Completing the Honours Project

Students undertaking the Honours Program submit a research proposal approved by their chosen supervisor to the Honours Sub-committee by the end of March in their third year of study. Once approved, students can begin their project in BDent 3 for completion by the end of September in BDent 4.

The nature and specifications of the final report should take the form of a manuscript suitable for submission to a journal for publication. A standard journal format from a well-recognised journal may be used but the format of the Australian Dental Journal is recommended. Honours candidates will also present their Honours research project as either a poster or oral presentation at the Faculty of Dentistry Research Day. Students are also required to submit a minimum 3-page reflective essay on their Honours project.

(3) Requirements for the Award of Honours

The requirements for the Honours award are outlined in the Bachelor of Dentistry Honours Policy.


Bachelor of Dentistry students have the option of completing either the Honours & research project Unit of study or Electives (based on eligibility criteria and personal choice).

A minimum of six weeks will be allocated to the Elective program. Students may choose to spend the Elective period in one location or, with approval, to split the elective into smaller elective studies with a common theme. This flexibility would allow students to participate in popular electives and would encourage a greater breadth of experience.

The greatest opportunity to undertake placements occurs during the vacation between the end of BDent 3 and the commencement of BDent 4. Students may also wish to consider utilising the July and September vacations throughout year 3 to undertake a portion of their elective project.

Students will be expected to self-fund their elective program, including costs associated with travel to and from the elective site, any accommodation expenses, plus daily living costs.

Additional information can be found in the Bachelor of Dentistry Electives Policy.