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New arts-based module enables first-year Dentistry students to thrive

Dentistry students complete an innovative new arts-based module designed to help them thrive during their first term at university and beyond.

Thriving in Cultural London 3

First year Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) students in the Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences have recently completed an innovative new arts-based learning module.  

Leveraging King’s central location and its strong cultural links across the city, the module is designed to help King’s dental students not only to adapt to life in London, but to thrive from the very start of their first term at university.

‘Thriving in Cultural London’ has been developed by Professor Kim Piper, Dean for Education in the Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences and Dr Flora Smyth Zahra, Clinical Senior Lecturer in Interdisciplinarity & Innovation in Dental Education in collaboration with the university’s Culture team. It is a compulsory but non-assessed module for all first-year dental undergraduates from September 2019.    

The eight-week experiential and exploratory course draws upon ongoing longitudinal research in the faculty into student professional identity formation, clinical humanities and personal development.  The module is also designed to instill early leadership attributes and encourage reflective practice. A core aim of the course is to help students successfully transition to university life by promoting student wellbeing, fostering community and enabling students to build a sense of belonging.  

My previous work has shown that arts, humanities and cultural experiences within London nurture transformational learning in dental and medical students. This new component is designed to support student transition and provide informal transformational learning opportunities that underpin professional identity formation and personal development– Dr Flora Smyth Zahra, Clinical Senior Lecturer in Interdisciplinarity & Innovation in Dental Education

During the sessions, students are encouraged to become curious explorers of the city. Through arts-based practices they observe, reflect and work collaboratively - all essential skills of a good dentist and transitioning to a clinical course at university. The Thriving in Cultural London module is interactive and participatory, asking the students to have a go, try new ideas, not be afraid of failing and to step out of their comfort zone.  

I have enjoyed the course and all the new things I have been exposed to.– Student feedback
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A page from a students 'Thriving in Cultural London' journal, created following a visit to Tate Modern.

The group of 130 students were split into 4 cohorts, which rotated around a series of different activities over the term, led and supported by Graduate Teaching Assistants. During one session students took part in a beginner’s contemporary dance workshop led by an animateur from Ballet Rambert and explored the benefits dance can have on health and wellbeing. In another session, students became ‘curious explorers’ and created their own walking tours of their local area to swap with classmates, taking a closer look at their everyday environment to discover new and interesting things. Other sessions included freewriting in The Undercroft skatepark on the Southbank, a trip to Sadler's Wells theatre and exploring opposing forces and participant observation at Tate Modern. 

We are delighted to have worked with the culture team to pilot this innovative module which we look forward to continuing to develop for future years as part of our new curriculum, which is focused on our commitment as a faculty to create space to allow all students to belong, flourish and reach their full potential, becoming the dental professionals that our society needs.– Professor Kim Piper, Dean for Education in the Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences
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The Undercroft skatepark, Southbank Centre. Each student chose a word from their free writing to create a word spiral in chalk on the floor of the skatepark.