Dental students, social policy students and learning disability: do differing attitudes exist?

C. Coyle, W. Saunderson, Ruth Freeman (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: To examine the attitudes of dental students and social policy students towards learning disabilities in order to identify whether attitudinal differences exist and to suggest recommendations in the dental undergraduate curriculum commensurate with Government legislation in the United Kingdom. Design: A cross-sectional survey of all undergraduate dental students at Queen's University, Belfast and all undergraduate social policy students at University of Ulster. Method: A convenience sample of all undergraduate dental and social policy students was obtained. The students completed a questionnaire to assess attitude towards learning disability. The data were analysed using Cronbach's a, Student's t-test and analysis of variance (one-way fixed effect model). The level of statistical significance was set at 5%. Results: The response rate was 83% for dental students and 97% for social policy students. Dental students had significantly lower mean scores and hence less favourable attitudes to learning disability compared with social policy students. Female dental students had significantly higher mean scores and hence more favourable attitudes to learning disability compared with male students. Conclusions: The findings show that dental undergraduates compared with social policy students had less favourable attitudes towards those with learning disability. Dental students should receive training in learning disability and undergraduate programmes should be conceptualised as a spiral curriculum. It is proposed that social policy theory should be introduced into undergraduate dental curricula, that early exposure to learning disability in a community setting should be incorporated into the first undergraduate years and in later undergraduate clinical years students should treat patients with learning disability in order to promote experiential learning and reflective practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-139
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Dental Education
Issue number3
Early online date2 Jul 2004
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2004


  • Dental students
  • Dental undergraduate curriculum
  • Learning disability
  • Social policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Dentistry
  • Education


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