Correlation of a Pre-test with Performance of Entering Dental Hygiene Students in a Scientific Literature Course

Neely, Anthony, Judy Kwapis Jaeger, and Judith Luxmore



Dental hygiene students must meet minimum admission criteria for acceptance into dental hygiene programs.  Although all entering students have satisfied the entry criteria, a wide variance in backgrounds exists with respect to knowledge and experiences. Faculty use different methods to assess skill levels, allowing them to tailor individualized plans for success.




The purpose of this study is to report on the correlation of pre-test results with interim and final performance in a scientific literature course for entering dental hygiene students. 




On the first day of class, dental hygiene students completed a survey and a pretest.  The survey consisted of two sections. The first section asked ten questions on demographics, previous colleges or universities attended, past college coursework, prior work with research projects, past research methods courses, and attitudes toward research.  The second section asked students to rate their knowledge and level of ability on ten research topics on a competence continuum from novice to expert.  The pre-test consisted of 20 matching questions including definitions and basic concepts needed to read and interpret scientific literature. Data from two separate classes are included in this analysis. Valid data responses were available for 23 students in each class. Pearson correlation coefficient, Student’s t-test and analysis of variance was used assess significance of relationships.





The mean ages were 24.08+4.70 and 21.83+3.50 for classes A and B, respectively. The average pre-test score was 65.0+28.0 and 63.54+20.30 for Classes A and B, respectively. The median score for the pre-test was 60 for both groups. Pre-test scores ranged from 20% correct to 100% correct for both classes. Overall mean scores were 85.99+4.98 and 88.73+3.90 for Classes A and B, respectively and median overall scores were 85.49 and 89.70 for Classes A and B, respectively. There was no significant difference in pre-test scores for either class (t=0.21; p=0.84). No significant correlation was noted for pre-test and any interim evaluation or overall performance for either class (p>0.05). No significant relationships were noted between age, educational background, prior research knowledge, previous research experience, attitude, self-assessment of competence and pre-test scores (p>0.05). Regardless of entering pre-test score, all students successfully completed the scientific literature course.




The results of this investigation revealed that pre-test scores for two entering dental hygiene classes were not predictive of success in a scientific literature course. Despite not being useful as a predictor of future success in the course, the results of the pre-test allowed faculty to assess strengths and weaknesses of each student and tailor individual instruction plans. These plans included weekly scientific terminology posts online as well as weekly online quizzes. Students were also encouraged to submit terms and concepts that they were uncertain of in an electronic drop box monitored by the faculty. Faculty discussed confusing terminology and concepts during the next class period or during office hours.




Whereas this pre-test did not significantly correlate with success in a scientific literature course for entering dental hygiene students, it is a useful tool to allow faculty to assess the entering knowledge level of students and tailor a plan of action for success. Finally, the results show that it is possible help students achieve success in a scientific literature course, despite their entering knowledge level.