Dental students’ perceptions of learning communication skills in a forum theatre-style teaching session on breaking bad news

Tarek Himida (Lead / Corresponding author), Sucharita Nanjappa, Siyang Yuan, Ruth Freeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
350 Downloads (Pure)


Introduction: Communication skills are an integral component of dental undergraduate education. Due to the complex nature of these skills, didactic teaching methods used in other educational contexts can be limited. Interactive and participative methods rooted in modern adult learning theories, such as Forum Theatre, may be more effective in the teaching of communication skills. Aim: To explore the usefulness of Forum Theatre in teaching clinical undergraduate dental students how to break bad news to their patients.

Methods: A purposive sample of 4th-year undergraduate dental students was invited to participate. An evaluation questionnaire was given to the students and collected after the Forum Theatre interactive session. Participants were asked to provide self-reported accounts on the most and least useful parts of the session, as well as the most important learning outcome. Usefulness of the session in clinical work, increasing confidence and ability in breaking bad news, were evaluated via a 5-point Likert-scale type question. Qualitative data were analysed using Framework Analysis to explore the themes found in the open-text component. Descriptive statistics were used to analyse the Likert-scale items.

Results: One hundred and fifteen completed questionnaires were collected from the 2015 and 2016 classes. Most students gave the Forum Theatre session a rating of 3 or above on a 5-point Likert scale; indicating that they found it useful. Qualitative results also showed that most participants liked the teaching session thanks to its interactive nature, the use of actors and the input of the facilitators. The majority of students showed preference towards smaller groups which give everyone equal opportunity to participate without unnecessary repetition.

Conclusion: The results seem to confirm previous findings. Students rated their learning experience involving Forum Theatre favourably. Smaller groups and trained facilitators are required for the success of this teaching method. Further research is needed to assess the long-term educational benefits of Forum Theatre.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-100
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Journal of Dental Education
Issue number2
Early online date21 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


  • breaking bad news
  • communication skills
  • dental education
  • forum theatre
  • Clinical Competence
  • Dentist-Patient Relations
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Education, Dental/methods
  • Teaching
  • Group Processes
  • Learning
  • Female
  • Perception
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Students, Dental/psychology
  • Communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Dentistry


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