Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




The professional duties of dental hygienists are broadening and with this expansion comes new responsibilities for patient care. The future role of the dental hygienist will include new opportunities as well as new obligations which will require proficiency in dental hygiene skills and judgment. It is incumbent upon dental hygiene educators, therefore, to provide the educational experiences necessary to prepare the professionals of the future for clinical as well as moral decision making. The conceptual framework upon which this dissertation was based was the cognitive-developmental theory developed by John Dewey, Jean Piaget and Lawrence Kohlberg. This investigation combined the cognitive developmental principle with the theories of group process to produce a teaching strategy designed to stimulate moral development.;The purpose of this study was to determine the relationship between in-class discussions of ethical dilemmas and the moral judgment of dental hygiene students. In addition, data were sought to determine which type of group interaction was more effective in stimulating moral development, open-ended or consensus seeking discussions.;In this investigation, the independent variable was moral judgment as measured by Rest's Defining Issues Test, an objective measure of moral judgment based upon Kohlberg's moral dilemmas. The dependent variables were (1) the dilemma discussion method and (2) the type of peer interaction or group discussion, open-ended or consensus seeking. The population studied consisted of two intact classes of first-year dental hygiene students. The experimental group was randomly assigned to the two treatments, open-ended or consensus seeking discussions. A nonequivalent control group was employed to control for the effects of history, maturation, testing and instrumentation. The experimental groups met for two hours a week during which they discussed ethical dilemmas which are relevant to dental hygiene practitioners. One of the treatment groups was required to seek consensus concerning the action to be taken in each dilemma while the other group's discussions remained open-ended. After six weeks of in-class discussions, the experimental and control groups were posttested. One month after the completion of the treatment, a follow-up test was conducted to detect long-term and delayed action effects. Statistical procedures used were one-way analyses of variance with a priori orthogonal contrasts.;The statistical results did not support the hypotheses that stated that (1) the treatment groups would have a higher score on the DIT than the control group and (2) the consensus seeking group's DIT score would exceed that of the open-ended group. General observation of the data did indicate, however, that these predictions could be true if tested under different circumstances.;The major conclusions drawn by this study were that while there were no statistical differences between groups, nonempirical observations suggested that (1) the dilemma discussion method could have a positive effect on moral judgment and (2) consensus seeking discussion might be more effective than open-ended discussion in stimulating the moral development of dental hygiene students.



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