Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Debra Beebe


At a dental hygiene program within a community college in New York State, clinical instructors are hired based on their expertise as practitioners. Most clinical instructors lack a background in adult learning theory and practice, which is an issue because their students are adult learners whose average age is 26. The instructors' lack of knowledge in this area challenges their effectiveness. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to explore dental hygiene instructors' views about what kind of professional development offerings related to adult learning might help improve their teaching effectiveness. The conceptual framework for this project study was Lave and Wenger's situated learning theory. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 8 part-time clinical instructors from the same academic department. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis. Five themes emerged from data analysis: participants' commitment to teaching, experience with students' attitudes, desire for communication, satisfaction with students' successes, and need for professional development. These findings led to the design of a professional development program that includes content on behaviorism, humanism, social cognitive theory, cognitivism, constructivism, and experiential learning theory. The goals of the program include providing clinical instructors with a background in adult learning theory and identifying ways to implement adult learning theory into clinical instruction. In potentially improving the teaching effectiveness of clinical instructors, this study may result in the better preparation of dental hygiene students and, ultimately, lead to improved patient care.