Informal learning using hybrid social learning networks for continuing professional development amongst dental professionals in the UK

Stanfield, John and Komljenovic, Janja (2024) Informal learning using hybrid social learning networks for continuing professional development amongst dental professionals in the UK. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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Background: The background presents a comprehensive examination of how dental professionals in the UK integrate social networks into their daily practice. They rely on online resources for just-in-time learning, acquiring essential knowledge and skills when needed. The General Dental Council (GDC) oversees dental professionals, setting standards for practice and protecting patients' interests. The GDC's regulatory framework has historically undervalued informal learning, partly due to limited evidence of its effectiveness and the challenges in evaluating its outcomes. Nevertheless, dental professionals actively engage in self-directed learning, with social media playing a valuable role in their professional development. The complex nature of social media demands further research, necessitating the development of a comprehensive conceptual framework to explore the interconnected aspects of networks and informal learning and its complexities. Objectives: The primary aim of this research is to acquire comprehensive insights into the utilisation of Hybrid Social Learning Networks among Dental Professionals in the United Kingdom, specifically concerning their professional development. The study explores how these Dental Professionals engage in learning, exchanging information, and sharing their experiences through various networks, as well as their attitudes towards the adoption of technology. Methods: An online survey employing a fixed mixed methods design was utilised to gather both quantitative and qualitative data. The survey incorporated a combination of closed and open-ended questions to capture a comprehensive understanding of the research topic via the lens of complexity theory. Results: The data revealed a positive impact of personal use of social media on its professional application among dental professionals. They actively engaged with social media networks to collaborate with peers and experts, sharing knowledge and staying updated on professional developments. These dental professionals employed various resources for learning and shared their experiences across different domains. Notably, some variations were observed between age groups, with younger participants being more inclined to seek guidance from peers and experts. Additionally, Dental Care Professionals (DCPs) demonstrated a higher tendency to access and participate in professionally related Facebook groups compared to dentists. Overall, both groups exhibited a preference for determining their own learning needs and believed in their ability to reflect on their learning requirements. While both groups found the internet to be a valuable source of information, they expressed concerns regarding the influence wielded by self-appointed experts within these online platforms. Conclusion: In the realm of continuing professional development (CPD) for dental professionals in the UK, a hybrid social learning network holds great promise as a platform that facilitates both informal and formal learning opportunities. The network can foster valuable informal learning experiences through peer-to-peer discussions and experience-sharing. Simultaneously, it can offer structured CPD opportunities through online courses and educational resources. The integration of both formal and informal learning within a hybrid social learning network presents a unique opportunity to bolster the effectiveness of CPD and support ongoing professional growth for dental professionals. Regulators and CPD providers should embrace this approach and incorporate informal learning into their frameworks, thereby embracing all forms of learning and maximising the potential for professional development.

Item Type:
Thesis (PhD)
?? informal learning, dental professionals, cpd, social media, united kingdomybrid social learning networks, ??
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Deposited On:
30 May 2024 09:20
Last Modified:
15 Jun 2024 23:40