Kathryn Truant CDA MEd – a CDA's Role in Education and Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery

Program planning: Facilitating contextual strategies – A reflection

EDUC 830
Simon Fraser University – Faculty of Education
MEd Post-Secondary, VCC Cohort
Implementation of Educational Programs
Professor: Dr. Glenn Galy
Student: Kathryn Truant
May 30, 2021


“There is little point adding value to a system that is at odds with the strategic direction of the enterprise . . . Change, whether strategic, tactical or operational, must be set in the context of general corporate strategy” (McCalman, Paton, & Siebert, 2016, p. 20).            

This quote intrigues me because it implies that ‘general corporate strategies’ must be contextual – this seems obvious. There seems to be a lot to consider in program planning. How does one determine ‘general corporate strategies?’ I believe that strategies need to be in place for emergent situations such as, industry-wide human capital[1] shortages compounded by an immediate pandemic.

[1] Human capital is an industry’s “accumulated knowledge base” (McCalman, et al., 2016, p. 18).


My institution (Okanagan College) has program development plans offered through the Learning and Applied Research (LAR) department, which currently are solely focused on developing online programs thanks to COVID-19. Daffron and Caffarella argue that, “program planning is an interactive and action-oriented process in which decisions and choices are made that do not follow the conventional approach to planning,” (2021, p. 20) and that “planning program is rarely, if ever, a linear step-by-step process” (2021, p. 32). I see how this notion applies – a ‘conventional’ approach is not fluid or adaptable to evolving global or industry needs.

There is a documented critical shortage of CDA’s nationwide[2]. New graduates are desirable, but these graduates, after completing a 10-month vocational program, which is dense in foundational skills, lack the advanced skills required to meet the demand that experienced dental assistants possess. Put a different way, each dental clinic typically employs an experienced CDA who has mastered advanced skills. With the human resource shortage, many clinics struggle to employ even one experienced CDA that can perform regular duties, AND adequately train new graduates. So, the new grads arrive into practice often without mentorship.

I see a direct correlation in program planning strategies, and the desired strategies to welcome a new CDA in practice. Daffron and Caffarella advise, “One strategy that novice planners find helpful in addressing the needed tasks is to work collaboratively, either in actually planning programs with more experienced planning or in a mentoring or coaching relationship with them” (2021, p. 34).

[2]  The nationwide shortage of CDA’s is well-documented. Further, there was a shortage before the pandemic and the situation has since worsened (Hunter, 2020).


My licensing body, the College of Dental Surgeons of BC (CDSBC) is addressing the CDA shortage in questionable ways. The CDSBC is actively supporting the hiring of dental assistants (DA’s) that have NOT received formal education or training. They reason that, “most new graduates still have a lot to learn and require extensive onsite training in practice to really get up to speed, so whether you hire a DA or a new CDA, you’re committed to training time” (Wolanski, 2018, p. 21). I do not agree with this approach. I believe that attracting CDA’s to enter and remain in the profession lies in strategic program planning, that is, I believe that this can be accomplished by fostering a higher level CDA with greater responsibilities. The CDSBC is an important stakeholder in this process. They mandate continuing education as a requirement for annual licensure of dentists and CDA’s. I believe they see value in education, and if more advanced programs were planned, I believe the CDA’s would follow, especially because new advanced skills programs would facilitate their continuing education requirements.

“Professional associations usually host continuing professional educational programs for their members to gather in one location to share what they have learned with others in their profession or field” (Daffron & Caffarella, 2021, p. 7). It is important to note that prior to the onset of the pandemic, two major dental conferences were held in BC each year (one in Vancouver in the spring, and one in Kelowna in the Fall). The programs and workshops offered at these conferences are invaluable for professional development and continuing education requirements. 2021 will mark the second year in a row that all in-person dental conferences have been cancelled.

I am learning that there is no how-to guide to program plan, just like there is no quick way to advance a CDA’s knowledge base. Prior to the pandemic, I saw gaps in my profession. I have researched the how’s and the why’s of the shortage. I have talked to dentists, dental specialists, and Certified Dental Assistants. Their responses specify the need for an adaptable program which delivers advanced skills and refresher courses in dental assisting.

I have also researched provincial learning institutions to determine if advanced programs exist for CDA’s. Of the eight accredited schools in BC, only three offer the Orthodontic module, only one offers the Prosthodontic modules, and only one institution offers the Sedation module. Okanagan College offers both the Orthodontic and Prosthodontic module. None of the CDA institutions in BC offer programs in advanced skills (for example, oral surgery, implantology, advanced bonding techniques, and surgical assisting), or refresher courses.


My goal is to develop a continuing education program at Okanagan College for CDA’s offering advanced skills outside of the modules, and refresher courses for CDA’s who are returning from non-practicing status (maternity leave, typically). After consulting with LAR, it is suggested I start with one hybrid workshop with online resource components (theory), and clinical hands-on components, and build from there. I reached out to the Continuing Studies department, and they sent me an application form. I have a lot of planning ahead of me, and I plan on collaborating with other educators, dental professionals in my community, and dental supply companies for sponsorship.            

The biggest challenge I have is time commitment – I have been teaching full-time at Okanagan College, part-time in the community, and working on this Master’s degree. I mentioned in my previous reflection that this program lead me to a significant ‘aha’ moment during this course on program planning. This course is also giving me the tools (and a shove in the right direction) to continue to move forward with my planning.


Daffron, S. R., & Caffarella, R. S. (2021). Planning programs for adult learners – A practical guide (4th ed.). Hoboken: Jossey-Bass.

Hunter, T. (2020, June 30). Covid-19 contributing to already short supply of dental assistants. How to stop the departure? DentistryIQ. Retrieved from

McCalman, J., Paton, R. A., & Siebert, S. (2016). Change management – A guide to effective implementation (4th ed.). Los Angeles: Sage.

Wolanski, R. (2018). Using dental assistants in your office: Stop-gap measure, or new frontier? The Bridge – BC Dental Association the Voice of BC Dentists, (Fall 2018), 20-21.

%d bloggers like this: