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Becoming better dental educators

Scholarship applicants sought for 2019 Institute for Teaching and Learning

January 28, 2019

By Kimber Solana

Photo of Drs. Mara, Aiken and Mayher posing during the 2018 ITL
Educators: From left, Drs. Matthew Mara, Carol Aiken and Vincent Mayher pose for a photo during the 2018 Academy for Advancing Leadership's Institute for Teaching and Learning. The trio attended the program through a grants scholarship from the ADA Council on Dental Education and Licensure.
As a new faculty member at Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine, Dr. Matthew Mara said he's constantly looking for ways to learn new skills and meet new colleagues in academia.
Dr. Mara found that opportunity by attending the 2018 Academy for Advancing Leadership's Institute for Teaching and Learning, a teacher-training program for full- or part-time dental educators and private practitioners interested in an academic career.
"I was not only able to network with some faculty members from my own institution whom I do not normally cross paths, but I was able to make some great connections with faculty from other institutions," he said.
Dr. Mara was among the 58 health educators and practitioners across 34 academic and clinical institutions who attended the program, which is offered by the Academy for Academic Leadership.
Dr. Mara, along with Drs. Vincent Mayher and Carol Aiken, attended the 2018 teacher-training program through the annual ADA Council on Dental Education and Licensure grants scholarship, as part of a commitment to support dental education and ADA general dentist members interested in academia.
"The overall impression the [Institute for Teaching and Learning] program gave me was that there is a lot more to educating our dental students than just showing up with some knowledge of dental procedures," said Dr. Mayher, a clinical associate at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine in Philadelphia.
"When you are working with students, you are working with individuals who will respond better if you know how to tap their ability to learn," he added.
The four-day onsite program, held in August 2018 at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, engaged participants in case-based and problem-solving learning, taught by leaders and educators in dentistry, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, public health and psychology.
According to the Academy for Advancing Leadership, instructors showcased evidence-based methods and strategies including shaping a teaching philosophy, interprofessional education and collaboration, giving constructive feedback and calibrating skill-based performance.
Dr. Aiken highlighted learning about the "flipped classroom" interactive experience, where students come to class prepared in advance to participate in relevant classroom discussion regarding a topic they had read or watched a video about.
"This is a more valuable and engaging student experience than straight lecture format," she said.

This year's Institute for Teaching Learning program will be held Aug. 19-22 in Houston. The program, which allows participants to explore all aspects of academia, involves class discussions, small-group projects, problem-solving exercises, observation and critique of teachers in action, peer feedback and presentations by ITL Scholars.  In addition, participants can expand their experience after completion of the onsite portion of the program by participating in AAL's post-program sessions over the course of six months in order to be eligible to receive the ITL Plus Recognition.  These post-program sessions include supplemental online activities, a distance learning opportunity and interactive webinars.

Applications for the ADA CDEL tuition scholarship to the Institute for Teaching and Learning are due March 27. Scholarships will be granted by June 28. Each scholarship is in the amount of ITL tuition and includes airfare expenses. For more information on the ADA CDEL tuition scholarship to the Institute for Teaching and Learning, including the complete list of criteria and eligibility requirements, visit and search "Dental Educator and Teaching Scholarships from the ADA."
To learn more about the Institute for Teaching and Learning, visit or contact Dr. Felicia Tucker-Lively, Academy for Advancing Leadership vice president, at