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Clinical Skills Acquisition: Rethinking Assessment Using a Virtual Haptic Simulator

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185–197
JournalTechnology, Knowledge and Learning
Issue number2
Early online date15 Mar 2017
E-pub ahead of print15 Mar 2017
PublishedJul 2017


King's Authors


This study was the fourth study (Study 4) of four consecutive cohort studies (2007/2008, 2008/2009, 2009/2010 and 2010/2011) of over 520 dental undergraduate first year students at King’s College London as part of their 5-year undergraduate programme. The study reported in this paper is a 2-year longitudinal investigation of 140 first year students (and subsequent second year) who were being trained to develop their clinical dental skills. In this study students used both the traditional Phantom-head laboratory and a haptically simulated virtual reality systems (HapTEL) laboratory to develop their basic clinical skills. Pre- and post-psychometric tests were used to measure their spatial reasoning and manipulation skills. The test scores and traditional clinical examinations results showed significant improvement in their psychomotor skills especially in the area of spatial awareness within a 3-months period (one term) of pre-clinical training. The results showed that using psychometric tests can reveal specific skill development amongst students not identified by traditional assessment methods. This study complements the previous studies in showing the development of psychomotor skills by practising virtual reality simulators can be monitored and measured through stages of skill acquisition more accurately and objectively. These results confirmed the consistency of skill improvement through the three phases of skill acquisition although more analysis is needed of the specific types of tests which reliably measured these skill phases. The result of this research could therefore inform the development of formative and summative dental clinical skills’ assessment to measure and monitor the student’s psychomotor training with more regular and instant feedback in an objective way using computers along with the traditional Phantom-head mannequin.

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