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Innovation Became an Eye Opener for Students

Dental care students participated in an intensive innovation course and discovered that the process is a very useful study tool which they wished they had learned much earlier.

At the School of Clinical Assistants and Dentists (SKT) at the University of Copenhagen, week four is always an optional feature week for students across the year groups. While most students immersed themselves into dental cleaning, digitisation or health promotion, a small group of students this year had the opportunity to grapple with innovation as they participated in the pilot version of an innovation course which the education management wants all students to join next year.

“We are shaping dental therapists that will function in real life. They need an innovative mindset and interdisciplinarity. The innovation process and the tools for idea generation and problem solving are something students may use to handle big and small projects in the future”, says Anne Chrone, teacher at the dental hygienist education, who helped shape the innovation course.

Intensive Course Challenged both Teacher and Students

In close co-operation with CHI, the School of Oral Health Care had planned the course during autumn 2017, taking a specific challenge from the Copenhagen Municipal Dental Care as its point of departure: When older people are admitted to care homes, it is a great challenge to care well for their teeth. They quickly get cavities and inflammation of the mouth, which is a major problem as this has been shown to have a correlation with both lung and cardiovascular disease.

12 students from all year groups took the chance and signed up for the new course. In four days, they underwent an intensive and tightly facilitated innovation process, in which they as a group went from being totally confused and frustrated to everyone having developed ideas for new solutions to the problem.

“We guided the students for the four days, and it was a very intensive course. At the beginning, I was wondering whether we would manage as it was hard to get them started. But it turned out to be a good way to implement the process. They really came up with something good in a relatively short time”, says Anne Chrone.

The process

Day 1 – starting from zero
Presentation of the problem
Personality test as the basis for understanding group dynamics
Come up with 50 bad ideas

Day 2 – stick to the problem
Practice visit to Plejecenter Sølund (the Sølund care home)
Observation and interviews with management and staff
Identify the problem

Day 3 – find a solution
Develop idea for a solution to the problem

Day 4 – present the idea for a solution
Present the solution to the municipal dental care, the education management at the School of Oral Health Care and specially invited experts

Innovation as a Study Tool

The participating students had no idea what they would be facing when they signed up.

 “We were just thrown into it and did not really think we would be able to finish, but it was a good structure allowing us to quickly come up with something. We went from nothing to a result in three days!” say Jesper, Tatjana and Rebekka who all participated in the course and subsequently are quite excited.

“This was good preparation for other pedagogical tasks. We acquired a lot of tools that we can use in projects and tasks and in handling problems. It should be a regular part of the curriculum already from the first semester”, they say.

Although the course focused more on the process than the solution itself, it benefited the students that they were working with a real challenge and that they needed to present their solution ideas for both the municipal dental care and the education management on the fourth day.

“It was cool that it wasn’t fictional, but that we worked with something real and that we were taken seriously. It was very motivating”, emphasise Jesper, Tatjana and Rebekka.

From Pilot Courses to 200 Students by 2019

Anne Chrone conducted the course together with CHI’s innovation consultant at the University of Copenhagen, Nina Riis, who has experience with such innovation courses for students. Anne therefore had a dual role as she was facilitating the process for the students and at the same time learning to teach innovation processes from Nina. This gave Anne great comfort. She is very excited about the course, although a bit apprehensive at the prospect of having to conduct the course on a larger scale next year.

“It’s a process and provides tools that can be used in real life, and it was clear that it works! Therefore, we would like to spread the course to all 200 students during the feature week next year. Here, it will be essential that we can continue the good collaboration with Nina and CHI so we are able to do it in a really grand manner”, says Anne Chrone.

Den Europæiske Socialfond