Breaking the Mold to Spur Innovation

Dr. Richard ValachovicIn this month’s letter, Dr. Rick Valachovic, ADEA President and CEO, previews the unique opportunities that await attendees at the 2016 ADEA CCI Liaisons Summer Meeting in New Orleans.

Have you ever thought about dropping an egg from a 24-story building? Have you wondered how you might construct a package to land it safely on the ground?

From time to time, students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) get together, not just to ponder these questions, but to devise and test contraptions that can keep an egg intact when it is dropped from a great height. Given the countless innovations that have emerged from MIT, I think they’re on to something—and so do management gurus, elementary school teachers and others who want to encourage innovative thinking.

This summer, ADEA will take a page out of the Great Egg Drop book when we host the 10th ADEA CCI Liaisons Summer Meeting in New Orleans. This annual gathering brings together faculty who have been appointed by their deans to be agents of change on their campuses. To celebrate the start of a second decade of innovation in dental education and accelerate the pace of change, this meeting will break the mold. Rather than learning about innovation, the Liaisons will take part in the process itself.

The best way to learn is experiential, and this meeting will give the Liaisons the kind of interactive experiences that can position them to better lead change initiatives at their home institutions, including:

  • Taking part in several interactive workshops.
  • Receiving direct feedback on current projects or ideas percolating on their campuses.
  • Having both time and support to refine their ideas.
  • Creating roadmaps for future action.

ADEA Chief Learning Officer Anthony Palatta, D.D.S., Ed.D., who has been working with the meeting planning committee to structure the event, sees the new format as a response to the Liaisons’ request to be engaged in projects throughout the year. That request gave birth to a novel idea: inviting Liaisons who attend the June meeting to present posters representing actual or aspirational projects on their campuses.

These posters will not only expose the Liaisons to some of their colleagues’ best ideas, they will also serve as a vehicle for learning how to innovate and how to evaluate innovation.

The competition will occur in three stages that mirror developmental concepts within innovation:

  • In Round 1, Learning How to Assess Innovation, each Liaison will be given a rubric and asked to grade each of the posters.
  • In Round 2, Making Your Case for Innovation, the 10 teams whose posters receive the most votes will prepare and make five-minute oral presentations, giving attendees a fuller view of their plans. Once again, attendees will decide which of these projects truly breaks new ground.
  • In Round 3, Thinking Innovatively, three teams of finalists will engage in a contest that will hone their innovative thinking skills. (No word yet on whether or not this round will involve eggs.)

If you are a Liaison, and the thrill of competition or the opportunity to get your creative juices flowing still hasn’t motivated you to clear your calendar in early June, then perhaps the lure of funding will. The winners of the poster contest will go home not just with their peers’ admiration, but with some seed money they can use to translate their ideas into action or take established projects to the next level.

The process of planting seeds and taking them to fruition will be further explored in a session that kicks off the meeting on Tuesday. The Going Green Model applies the vocabulary of gardening to the process of change. Speaker Jones Loflin will share his views on:

  • Creating environments that enable change to grow and thrive.
  • Cultivating routines that support new actions and behaviors.
  • Celebrating “harvest moments” that motivate additional growth.

The timing of the Going Green presentation will coincide with the closing day of the 2016 ADEA Allied Dental Program Directors’ Conference, also being held in New Orleans in June. This is the third year the two meetings have held a joint overlap session with the goal of building bridges between the allied dental and dental education communities; however, this is the first time the session will be interactive.

The next day, the Liaisons will be in for another treat: a workshop on transformational leadership led by veteran Liaison Frank Licari, D.D.S., M.P.H., M.B.A. Frank authored a seminal ADEA CCI White Paper on the importance of faculty development in supporting curriculum change, and he has more than two decades of experience putting these ideas into practice. While at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry, he established a faculty committee and charged it with developing a new curriculum. He has since held leadership roles at two new dental schools: Midwestern University College of Dental Medicine-Illinois and Roseman University of Health Sciences College of Dental Medicine – South Jordan, Utah, where, in his role as Dean, he is continuing to shake up dental education.

In his current position, Frank has drawn on the expertise of executive consultant Barry Pogorel to conduct interactive workshops with Roseman dental school faculty, most of whom are new to academia. At the June meeting, Frank will lead a reflection exercise drawn from these workshops to give Liaisons a taste of the process he is using to help his faculty adapt to new challenges.

“As I was hiring faculty,” Frank recently told me, “the most frequent thing I heard was, ‘I want to teach students what I know,’ and I told them, ‘It’s really not about that. It’s about teaching them what they need to know for the next 20, 30 and 40 years.’”

So far, Frank has put 51 faculty and staff through transformational leadership training, and he believes it has opened their minds and given them a much better understanding of why the traditional lecture format used when they were in dental school is not as effective as case-based learning and other newer pedagogical techniques.

On the last day of the meeting, Geralyn “Geri” D. Crain, D.D.S., Ph.D., Assistant Dean for Educational Support and Faculty Development and Clinical Associate Professor at East Carolina University School of Dental Medicine (ECU SDM) will hold a workshop on how to translate ideas into reality. She knows this area well, having focused her doctoral research on developing a framework for managing change.

Geri first became involved with ADEA CCI while she was working on her doctorate in organizational development and change. Since joining the faculty at ECU SDM as it opened its doors in 2011, she has served as an ADEA CCI Liaison representing that institution. She recently accepted the position of ECU Interim Assistant Vice Chancellor for Interprofessional Collaboration for the Division of Health Sciences, a post that will give her new opportunities to lead and transform her institution.

Like the schools mentioned above, ECU SDM is a beacon of innovation, and its faculty have been exemplary when it comes to executing all manner of novel initiatives—from a groundbreaking model of community-based dental education to the sophisticated use of digital technologies to support active learning and assessment. Geri will have plenty of first-hand experience to draw on as she leads the Liaisons in creating roadmaps for their own innovation initiatives.

Could this process have positive outcomes for every one of our dental schools? We’d like to think so, but the results depend on participation. We’re hoping every school will send its Liaisons to New Orleans in June. This unique gathering is one your school will not want to miss.

Related content from previous issues of Charting Progress:

ADEA CCI: Curricular Change and Then Some

Jumping Into the Water With Both Feet

New Accreditation Standards Affirm a New Direction for Dental Education

The Not So Distant Future: Dental Education in 2050

Preparing Now for the Future of Dental Education

Commission on Change and Innovation in Dental Education

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