How does someone become a transformational educator? It’s been defined as an instructor who realizes that his or her purpose is greater than simply delivery of information. It’s someone who helps students in the learning process and in personal development. Reginald Taylor, DMD, DMSc, is a prime example of a transformational educator. He has decades-long experience in treating patients and teaching students as an orthodontist, associate professor and director of pre-doctoral orthodontics at the Texas A&M College of Dentistry. During his 18 years at the college, he has seen hundreds of students evolve into health care professionals. We spoke to him about his academic experiences.
Q: Transformational teaching involves continuous improvement of the instructor’s teaching methods. How do you achieve this?
A: I don’t know if the students realize this, but they also have something to teach the faculty. This can be a different way that they think about the material, or it can also be something based on their background that will continuously help me broaden my horizons of the world.
Q: Many of your students have gone on to pursue orthodontics after taking your class. Is there a key to getting them inspired to pursue this field?
A: As students advance through their dental education, they tend to find their love. Some love the entire spectrum of dentistry and decide to practice general dentistry. Others find a specific area of dentistry in which they want to focus their learning and practice. That is what happens to those students who would like to pursue orthodontics. These students want to express their artistic talents by using science to try to achieve harmony of tooth alignment, occlusion and facial balance. They tend to enjoy the diagnostic process as well as the mental exercises that are involved in the development and revision of treatment plans.
Q: How do you view dental education as it continues into the future?
A: The first paper that I ever had published, “Factors that Influence Minority Dental Students’ Career Plans,” was published in 1987 in the Journal of Dental Education. One of the key findings of that paper was that the amount of educational debt was one of the major factors that influenced the decision of eventual practice plans of minority dental students. More recent studies have shown this to be true for the entire population of dental school graduates. In order to maintain the practice of dentistry in general and orthodontics in particular, there are going to have to be some strategies developed to reduce the burden of student indebtedness.
Q: Since joining Texas A&M College of Dentistry, you have attended each graduation ceremony. What motivates you to attend each year?
A: To me, commencement is an extremely important event. It is the last formal opportunity to say to the students that we made it. I use the term we because I consider it a joint effort. No one succeeds alone, nor does anyone fail alone. Commencement is a time to celebrate the students’ achievements and give them a pat on the back as they leave formal education. Our presence at commencement is a way to say to the graduating students, ‘If you need us, we will still be here for you. We are proud of what you have accomplished.’ It is a big deal, and it should be celebrated.
Media contact: Dee Dee Grays, firstname.lastname@example.org, 979.436.0611