Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Adult, Career and Higher Education

Major Professor

Stephen J. Thornton, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Bárbara C. Cruz, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Cheryl R. Ellerbrock, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Phyllis L. Beemsterboer, Ed.D.


curriculum theory, dental hygiene curriculum, dental hygiene ethics, document analysis


The purpose of this study was two-fold: to assess the current status of ethics education and to create a model ethics education curriculum for dental hygiene programs to address issues with current thinking in ethics education. To this end, the structure and sequence of randomly selected dental hygiene programs' ethics education curricula were examined to garner insights that could inform designing a model curriculum. Second, a model four-semester instructional program in ethics education using curriculum design theories was constructed. Forty programs were randomly selected from the American Dental Hygienists' Association Entry-Level Dental Hygiene Programs' list, with the goal of receiving data from 20. Programs were requested to submit their ethics course(s) syllabi, schedules, and program map. Nineteen out of 40 programs participated in the study. Results showed basic sequences and unorganized structures in dental hygiene ethics education --- it varied in the credit hours, semester offering, content, integration, and frequency and lacked on-going training. A minority of programs emphasized continuous ethical case analysis or synthesis in the ethics course, and didactic teaching was the primary mode of ethics instruction. It was concluded that the status of ethics education is problematic in terms of its sequence and structure. Thus, this study designed a model ethics education curriculum for dental hygiene using Bruner's (1960), Walker's (1971), and Taba's (1962) curriculum design theories to combat the problem of low emphasis on teaching ethics, lack of student preparation, and lack of a model ethics education curriculum. This study recommends the following: explicit accreditation guidelines to standardize ethics education and possibly solve problems with existing ethics education; dental hygiene programs to self-assess their ethics education learning outcomes for setting goals and documenting progress; and future empirical research on ethics instruction and its associated impact.