Practical application

Farah Abu Sharkh

By Ciara Parsons, BA’15

It was a few years ago when Farah Abu Sharkh, Dentistry Class of 2018, noticed an opportunity for greater interactive learning in one of her dentistry courses. She felt compelled to take action and took her academic education experience and channeled it into a research project as part of the Schulich Dentistry Research Opportunity Program (SDROP).

The idea behind this project was to simplify the learning process related to dental anaesthesia instruction to make it more interactive and eventually launch an instructional series.

Taking existing multimedia resources and modifying them into individual modules about dental freezing, Abu Sharkh created a user-specific instructional series about what each freezing does, applicable scenarios, techniques and how to troubleshoot difficult situations.

Users of these modules were able to personalize their learning by controlling their progress and select which areas of instruction they wanted to focus on more closely.

“We wanted to make the program flexible so that it could be personalized to the way in which people like to learn and how much they already know about the subject. These modules allow you to skip around and focus on what you want to know,” she said.

Abu Sharkh holds a bachelors of education, which she agrees helped her to develop this instructional series. Using information learned from her training, as well as education research articles on multimedia learning, she was able to mobilize theory into practice.

‘Information chunking’ is something she incorporated into the modules, as education research seems to suggest this is one of the most effective ways to teach complex information or large quantities of information. This is also why she redeveloped and modified existing multimedia resources, like videos, into short and concise studying materials.

The instructional series was first demoed on a test group in September 2016, but was more recently used as a study aid in a Schulich Dentistry class led by Dr. Michael Shimizu in October 2017.

Abu Sharkh credits her supervisors, Dr. Khadry Galil and Tim Wilson, PhD, for being supportive of her project and equipping her with the expertise necessary to launch this instructional series. She also credits Dr. Stephen Ferrier, program coordinator of SDROP, and volunteers Mohamad Abu Sharkh and Pouyan Namavarian for assisting her in getting her research project off the ground.

“Dr. Galil is a dentist with a wealth of clinical experience, and Dr. Wilson has expertise in educational research, so I had the best of both worlds. They let me have independence with my project and carry things out the way I wanted, which was a great learning experience for me,” she said.

Abu Sharkh hopes to expand the instructional series and make it available as a clinical resource for dental students.