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In Education for primary care : an official publication of the Association of Course Organisers, National Association of GP Tutors, World Organisation of Family Doctors

The vicarious learning method (by observation) is used to help learners emulate their teachers' behaviours. The experiential learning method (by experience) is traditionally used thereafter, so that learners can apply these behaviours to a given situation. Both methods are widely utilised within clinical skills training. A clinical teacher may well face the question of whether a learner can complete a certain clinical task without having seen it performed before. Therefore, clinical teachers will need to determine which method, vicarious or experiential, is most effective for their learners. To help explore this, the author reflects on two examples from dental teaching practice, followed by discussion of the need to also observe soft skills; provide meaningful feedback; be a good role model; facilitate deep learning; know our learners, and implement learner-centred learning. Collectively, this reveals that although experiential learning may be possible and beneficial by itself, further research is required to fully support this.

Modha Bhaven


Dental education, clinical competence, learning, primary health care, teaching