Dennis Hartlieb

The Importance of Continuing Education and How Adults Learn with Dr. Newton Fahl

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Why is it important to consider how adults learn when we consider continuing education?

Listen in to this fascinating discussion with Dr. Newton Fahl, an expert in adult learning and how to best educate dentists who are pursuing continuing education. In this conversation, Dr. Fahl and Dr. Hartlieb discuss the unique challenges and opportunities that come with teaching adults. Dr. Fahl shares about his teaching philosophy and how those ideas shape the courses he teaches. 

Don't miss this riveting discussion, and consider how these principles that Dr. Fahl shares are relevant to our learning and our teaching as dentists! 

More about Dr. Newton Fahl

From Dr. Fahl's website

"Dr. Newton Fahl Jr. received his DDS degree from the Londrina State University, Brazil, in 1987. In 1989 he received the Certificate in Operative Dentistry and Master of Science degree from the University of Iowa, USA. Dr. Fahl is a member of the American Academy of Esthetic Dentistry (AAED), founding member and past president of the Brazilian Society of Aesthetic Dentistry (BSAD) and past president of the Society for Color and Appearance in Dentistry (SCAD). He is an MCG-Hinman Foundation fellow. 
"His passion and dedication to education have led Dr. Fahl to be the recipient of the Academy of Esthetic Dentistry (AAED) 2008 President’s Award for Best Teacher and the 2011 American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD) Excellence in Cosmetic Dentistry Education Award. Dr. Fahl is an Adjunct Professor of Operative Dentistry at the University of North Carolina (UNC). Dr. Fahl has extensively published on direct and indirect bonding techniques and is the author of the book Composite Resin Veneers – The Direct-Indirect Technique (2020). He is on the editorial board of several peer-reviewed journals."
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Read the Full Interview Below

A Passion for Teaching Adults

Dennis 0:02  
Hey, Dental Online Trainers! Dr. Dennis Hartlieb, back with you again. Well, I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in the audience as a young dentist at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Chicago for the American Academy of Fixed Prosth meeting.

Now back then I'm like this 28 year old; I even had hair on my head back then. And I was eager to see the presenter, Dr. Newton Fahl. I had seen some of Newton's publications, or some of his articles and publications. And I was eager to see him actually in this presentation. So Newton showed this presentation. And never in my career had I seen such beautiful, natural and literally seamless composite bonding. I mean, Newton is projected on a screen that's 10 foot tall. And he has a single bonded central incisor that literally covers the entire screen. And that bonded tooth, I mean, it was just flawless. I was just blown away. I mean, really, I was just blown away.

Now over the years, I've gotten to know Newton well as I've taken a bunch of his courses. And he's literally been one of the biggest influences in my dental career. Now, in our conversation today, Newton shares his teaching philosophy, which is super interesting, because Newton... I mean, not only does he take his composite artistry, seriously, he really wants to impact the people who have taken his courses.

So, he's really studied how to teach adults. And so he's going to share his teaching philosophy and the steps he goes through to make sure that the students feel safe in the environment, so that they're able to take in the information and apply the procedures he's sharing. So I think we're going to find this really fascinating. It's a great conversation. So just kick back and relax and enjoy my wonderful, wonderful talk with Dr. Newton Fahl. 

Hello, Dental Online Trainers. Dr. Dennis Hartlieb, with you again! I'm super excited. Look. We all, in our lifetimes, have people that we are... I don't know... They're our mentors. They don't know it, but they are. They challenge us. We we look up to them from afar, and they they probably don't know what influence they have on us and in our lives and our careers. And today I have someone probably hasn't heard these words from me. I know he hasn't heard these words from me because I've never spoken these words. And this is actually one of the great forums for me as I get to have these honest conversations with these colleagues of mine that I've never been able to speak openly with. So this is this is like this is like therapy for me, Newton. So, you're... Welcome to my therapy session. Hope you enjoy yourself today. 

Newton 2:37  
Oh my god. 

Dennis 2:39  
You weren't ready for this. 

Newton 2:41
Oh, I hope am! I hope I am. 

Dennis 2:43
Alright, so today I get to introduce Dr. Newton Fahl. If you don't know Newton Fahl, then you don't know composites. If you've listened to our previous episodes, you've heard my interview with Dr. Buddy Mopper, who is my my true my true big mentor in composites. And there's others. I'm going to be speaking with Corky Wilhite soon. And Newton Fahl though, is, who I have referred to -- and, Newton, I'm going to bring this up in just a minute -- he, I believe, is the Michelangelo of composite dentistry.

And I believe that Newton has changed the way that we do composite dentistry, the way that maybe Buddy Mopper and some others changed the way that we did in the first phase of composite dentistry. I think Newton did for composites what Willie Geller did for porcelain. And if you don't know Willie Geller, you can look up Wikipedia him or Google him. Willie Geller was the foremost ceramist that really changed the way that we started working with ceramics and dentistry back in the 80s and 90s. So Newton, before I gush anymore about you, welcome to our Sharecast, and thanks for joining us.

Newton 3:53  
Hey, Dennis! Well, I'm just humbled by this introduction, man! I think there are so many people we look up to, and that we endeavor to emulate in our dental composite world, so to speak. And I'm just privileged that you should think of me that way. And have me on the program tonight to share with you whatever it is, and even if it's just for a short therapy session. So we can lay it all out. And thank you so much. Thank you so much for having me.

Dennis 4:31  
You're welcome. And thank you! I have some great stories to tell! But first I want to talk a little about you. So you went to Londrina State, or actually it's the University of Londrina State, right?

Newton 4:42  
That's correct. Yeah, well, it depends on how you say it -- in Portuguese or in English. But it's the Londrina State University. Yep.

Dennis 4:51  
So I googled it, and I did a little tour of the campus and stuff. It looks like a really beautiful campus. Did you do your undergrad and your dental school there? Or how did that... Tell me about that.

Newton 5:03  
Both. Yeah, I did both. 

Dennis 5:05  
And then... and I want to talk about this down the road a little bit. And then you went on and you did an operative degree at Iowa, University of Iowa, the Hawkeyes. And I want to talk about that a little bit later, because I'm super curious about that stuff. Let me give a little bit more about your accolades. You're a member of the American Academy of Aesthetic Dentistry.

If anyone doesn't know about the AAAD, it's a phenomenal organization with the world's best dentists, best cosmetic dentists, or aesthetic dentists. They meet annually and then I think every three years, there's an open meeting with AAAD, and if you haven't been and you want to go, it's a phenomenal meeting. You're going to see dentistry that's just going to blow your brains. It's really great. Past President of Brazilians Studying Aesthetic Dentistry. You have lots of stuff going on.

One of the things I think is really cool, Newton, which I think it's probably an award that you should be getting every single year, it's sort of like Player of the Year for the NBA or whatever. In 2008, you were given the President's Award for the best teacher in dentistry by the AAAD, or the Aesthetic Academy. And quite honestly, you're... It's hard to express anyone who teaches better than you do. I've taken your hands on courses. I know how good you are when you teach. And I think, for me, if I were to get that award, that would be the biggest award I can imagine receiving. Tell me about that, when you received that award, and how how that felt to you?

Newton 6:35  
Well, first of all, then, I had no idea there was even such an award. And so I went on stage, and I did whatever I'm used to doing, which is teach. And I have a true passion for sharing. And, you know this very well, because the ad is not just any Academy. You're talking about the Spears and Kois and Goldsteins and Garbers and Shishas that are sitting there, and you're lecturing things, quote, unquote, to these guys.

So sure enough, I was trembling to my feet because... Well, that was actually one of the first times that I ever spoke for the Academy. And then I was asked to talk about composites, my stuff. And I said, Well, what should I talk about, to these people who are so knowledgeable about the world and the realm of Aesthetic Dentistry. So I'm just going to talk about my thing, and I'm going to present it to them and lay it out, just like I would to my average student, you know, bit by bit, step by step, and try to make it as clear as I could, which I did. I tried to do it.

But at the end, I had no idea there was an award, which, by the way, was created by Harold Heyman. And he later found out because he approached me when I got the award and said, I didn't know you had gotten the award, and congratulations. So Harold is a true educator. And so he came up with this award, that would honor an educator, a teacher who would go by certain standards of what education should mean.

You know, you need to be clear in the way that you present. Your content must have some support, scientific support, clinical support, and you need to make that something of worth to those who are listening to that so they can take it into their practice, and make it work in their own world, their own realm. So which is part of what I do in terms of my teaching philosophy, which I can talk later about that, which is called andragogy. So and I was there, and we had this gala dinner, and then they said,

Well, we're going to present this award to... This is the best teacher award and blah, blah, blah. And I was just sitting there; I had no idea. And so finally, you know, and that was Kois presenting it. 

Dennis 9:20  
Oh my! 

Newton 9:21  
Yeah, John Kois said Well, the award goes to Newton Fahl. And I, you know, I was just frozen to my feet. I couldn't get up. I just said, "What?!? What do you mean? What award? What, what are you talking about?" Well, long story short, I go out there. And I was speechless. I was literally speechless. I grabbed the award. And I looked at everybody I had nothing plan I just said, "Well, thank you." And I walked away.

That was it. I mean, that was it. So much for someone who's so talkative. And I just walked away. I had nothing to say .Well, thank you, and thank you. This means a lot to me. I said nothing .I just grabbed it, and, you know, phased out of the platform. And so... But to me, that meant a lot. Because I look at education, as I know you do, with a very dear heart.

My father was a teacher, was a professor, actually, of radiology at the University of Londrina. He was... He founded the department, he was a Professor of Radiology for 18 years. He practiced dentistry for 54 years. And he retired at age 80, after having been in practice for 54 years, only because I told him to, because he wouldn't. But he really inspired me to be a good teacher, just like Jerry Denny, Dr. Denny, who was my mentor at the University of Iowa. And teaching and educating is going beyond the just telling. 

Dennis 11:03  
You need to be clear in the way that you present. Your content must have some support, scientific support, clinical support, and you need to make that something of worth to those who are listening to that so they can take it into their practice, and make it work in their own world, their own realm. 
Dr. Newton Fahl

The Unique Challenges of Teaching Adult Learners

Newton 11:04  
You need to impact the lives of those to whom you are presenting, in a way that it makes a difference. So that brings in the concept, the methodology that I have, pretty much all my life as a teacher been reading about called andragogy, which was initially developed by Malcolm Knowles in the mid 1980s. And adragogy is a Greek word meaning the teaching of adults, it's adult learning. So adults, they need to understand four pillars so that they can learn. One, they need to be welcomed into the environment in which they are so they can open up and receive the information, so they can feel welcomed by everybody, and especially the educator, the mentor.

Dennis 12:11  
How is that different than from being a kid? So let's say I'm a college kid, right? But so I don't know if that qualifies as an adult?

Newton 12:20  
It does. Yes, it does. Because...

Dennis 12:24  
Because you get to make the decision if I want to stay in the class or not, whereas as a non adult, or as a kid, you're sort of forced... I'm going to go to this calculus class or this history class, because I have to, because it's part of my curriculum in high school. But in college, I can make that choice. So you have to engage me and tell me why I have to be there. Is that that what I'm hearing? 

Newton 12:47  
Yeah, but what happens is, as opposed to pedagogy, which is the teaching of children... children have no prior experience. They're just there. They're blank page, whatever you give them... You know, if you look at Piaget, up to the age of seven years of age, all children are like a blank page. And they take in everything you give to them. They have no prior experience in anything. So, beyond the age of seven, and as you get older, and you start acquiring experiences, whatever they may be, as a kid... You know, you may have a bicycle accident, that builds up into your experience. And when you go to learn, you know, professional bicycling, that is part of your armamentarium, your history.

Dennis 13:40  
You have this experience to draw from.

Newton 13:45  
So, if you're talking about a college kid in the calculus class, what is it that they know about calculus? Sometimes nothing, but they... they're past the teenage years in which they have accumulated experiences in their lives and not just educational experience, but life experience, in living and then their relationship with other people. And they're building on them, you know. So they have experience...

And that's the one thing about adults. Dentists or not a non dentists. Adults have experiences, whatever they may be -- good or bad. But they have experience. So they walk into a class, let's say, we are there, you and I, we're teaching. Let's say we're teaching together. And we have... And this is something I usually ask my students: how many years haven't been in practice? Because that tells me their age and what sort of experience they've been through what they've accumulated. Sure.

So okay, let's say we're teaching. You and I are there. And we're teaching a class on plus fours are a composites or veneers. And the average time that the class has been in practice is 25 years. What does that tell you? They have a lot of experience. They've done a lot of composites; they've been to many courses. So, the one thing they do is they walk in with some sort of background, which can be good, or it can be bad...

Dennis 15:25  
Maybe not good!

Newton 15:26  
Not good. Because they are reluctant to open up to new information.

Dennis 15:35  
That, and they've repeated the same mistake over and over... Or I don't want to say the mistake. They've repeated a habit over and over. So it's difficult to undo that habit when someone has a trained habit, right?

Newton 15:47  
Exactly. And that's their experience. That is their experience. So the first pillar of andragogy, as I was saying, is to make them welcome... And to welcome these guys into this scenario where they say, okay... They walk in, and they say, I know too much. Or I don't know enough, or the experience that I've had hasn't been good. So, in other words, adults, and correct me if I'm wrong, as we go to sit in an audience, say to sit in that lecture to listen to somebody, the first thing that comes to our mind is: what will I gain from being here during this time period? What is the worth of me being here?

Dennis 16:35  
I think that's true. You know, Newton, I think that's more true and true. And I don't know if that's... I will talk as someone who's aging, that time issue is more and more critical for me. Right? So for me, it isn't about the money that I spend to go learn. It's about what am I going to learn in the time that I have? Because the time, the time is the biggest commodity that I have right now. Right?

That's the most critical currency I have is time. And so I don't know if that's true for a 30 year old or 25 year old or a 35 year old. But I can tell you, for someone who's close to 60, that what I'm going to learn in this segment is what I'm dialing into. I want to know what can I get out of the time that I must spend in this environment today!

Newton 17:25  
Correct. And that's the second pillar. What's the worth? So first is you as an educator who works through andragogy, you need to make everybody welcome. That's all...

Dennis 17:38  
How do you spell andragogy?

Newton 17:42  

Dennis 17:45  
Okay. Okay!

Newton 17:47  
Yeah, andragogy, which means...It's like pedagogy means teaching of children. And andragogy is the teaching of adults, adult learning in other words. Oh, by the way, here's a great book for those who want to get into this realm, teaching intensive and accelerated courses. And this one is by... This is a guy that anyone who wants to teach adults should read: Raymond J. Wlodkowski.

Dennis 18:24  
Okay, go and put the title back up. So for those who are listening to this, what I'm doing right now is I'm taking my phone and I'm screen capturing, I'm taking a photo of that, because it's called Teaching Intensive and Accelerated Courses: Instruction that Motivates Learning, because that's a real issue, right? How do we connect with adults, and we're dealing mostly with adults who are dentists. Some of my classmates might argue that I don't fit into that category. But nonetheless, we're dealing with adults, right?

Newton 18:54  
And then, all this that we're talking about, has to do with that one question, that one single question. How did I feel when I got that award? Because all through my life of teaching, you know, dental teaching, I've been trying to do exactly what I've been reading about andragogy and how to make a difference in one's life, in somebody else's life.

So, in whatever I do, as an educator, I try to bring in these pillars so I can connect with people. So I'm want to make them feel welcome. I want to make them see the worth of what I'm presenting. I tell... I'll give you an example. What if we, you and I, are talking to a group of people about class threes. And all they want to hear about is class floors. There's no worth there, right? You lost them. It's gone. Okay, or if... All of a sudden you walk into an auditorium, and they're talking about implants, and you just thought they were going to be talking about composite veneers. Oh, man, you lost me. I'm not... That's not me. I don't want to hear about it. You lost me. There's no word for me here, so to speak.

Dennis 20:12  
Newton, I don't want to interrupt you. But I want to segue. So this seems to me that this also then influences you how you have conversations with your patients? 

Newton 20:20  
Of course it does. 

Dennis 20:21  
Yeah. Because... So, just like you're talking about if we're talking to say, we're teaching a class, and there's students, but this is the same way of sort of connecting with your patients, right, the way that they're thinking, and you're probably maybe subconsciously walking through the same steps as you're working through your patients. And what do you think? No? Or yes?

Newton 20:44  
Well, absolutely. Well, let's go back to pillar one, making a patient feel welcome. Let's say your patient... Let's say your patient walks in. And she or he has had several disappointments in their dental life. Okay? Because dentist X or Y has hurt them in a way that they can't bear. And they walk in; they feel afraid. And what can you do to make them feel welcome and understand that you're not that kind of dentist, you're a different type of dentist. That's number one. And then number two, what is the worth? You know, what is the worth of me being here? I'm in pain...You know, maybe I'm...

Dennis 21:28  
Maybe emotional pain! It might not be physical pain; it might be emotional pain. 

Newton 21:31  
Whatever pain it is! Yeah. Yeah, whatever emotional or physical pain, whatever it is. So yeah, you're absolutely right when you say that these concepts are totally applicable to our clinical practice and the way that we relate to our patients. Absolutely!

Dennis 21:51  
Okay, continue on. So that's the first two. Tell me about number three.

The Role of Background Knowledge in Adult Learners

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Listen in to hear what Dr. Newton Fahl shares about how adult learners respond to new learning situations and how CE teachers can make them feel more welcome.

The Role of Systems and Protocols

Newton 21:54  
Number three. Well, number three is then this is the point where you come in as a mentor. And, especially when you're talking about hands on courses, because adults, if they don't have the skills, they need to be mentored through the process -- and you know this very well, because you teach a lot of hands on courses -- through the process of understanding what it is that I need to do from A to Z. So you're talking about a step by step protocol, talking about protocols. It's a huge mistake to think that adults don't need protocols.

Dennis 22:33  
No kidding! Anyone who doesn't have a dental office, who doesn't have a dental team... Anyone who does have a dental team, please listen that everybody needs protocols. Everybody needs systems. Everybody. Everybody! Dentists and our teams! Go ahead. Sorry. I wanted to throw that in. Because we have a whole new team. Everybody needs protocols. Sorry.

Newton 22:53  
Hey, you've got to have a protocol. How do you do this? How do you do this? Right?

Dennis 22:57  
How do you answer the phone? How do you greet a patient? How do you... right? How do you walk a patient back to the treatment room? Everything's a protocol. 

Newton 23:04  
Hey, and I'll tell you what, the more protocols you have, the more thankful adults are, you know why? Because in pillar number three, they love to be walked through the process of being educated, side by side, with supervision. However, listen to this, adults don't want to be told what to do. They want... They need to be shown what to do, relying on one's expertise and supervision, to walk them through the process.

But they want to be the builders of their own learning process. I'll say that again. Adults want to be the builders of their own learning process. Why so? Because by doing that, they feel secure. A child... You teach a child how to do this, how to make their bed, how to wash the dishes, how to walk the dog... But then when they get that, and they do it on their own, they're very proud of it, they feel empowered.

Dennis 24:24  
Well, they own it! They own it, this is that.

Newton 24:27  
Exactly. Adults need the same concept. They need to own their learning and say, "Hey, I came to listen to Dr. Fahl or Dr. Hartlieb, and man, he helped me to become better at what I already know, in a point." So the third pillar has to do with that and it has to be with our valuing -- listen to this -- our valuing the prior experience of adults.

This is then one of the things that... What's the difference between a teenager, or someone who's in college and going to the calculus class, they have no prior experience. But anyone who walks into your class with prior experience, they want to say, "I know this much." It may not be the world of quality. But I know this much, and I want this much to be a value to me. Otherwise, you're like, depriving them of their history, however good, however bad it is. So you need to say... you need to reinforce it.

But it's almost cross linking with pedagogy in a way. Why? Because you're saying, "Hey, good boy!" you know, and you pat them on the back said, you know, "What you did here is really good. But, you could do this a little different." You know, so you're always reinforcing what's good about what they know, and what they did and what they're doing. But there are Howevers.

Dennis 26:06  
Show them where it can be. I've got to two things to say. So number one, one of my my instructors at Michigan, he had told me, and people have heard my podcast before you've heard this before... "Treat your adults like children and treat your children like adults, and you'll have a successful practice." Because I do think that our adults need to have a pat on the back and say, "Hey, you're doing great." And our kids need to say, "Hey, you're an adult. And let's have an adult conversation about where you are and what we need from you to be able to get through our procedure."

I just had a kid in yesterday for peg laterals. Great kid, and boy, she had like incredible insight. She's 13 years old. And she saw things that I told her I said, most dentists don't see what you're seeing. Most dentists don't see what you're seeing. I said, I would suggest to you -- I don't know what you're planning on doing with your life... She wants to be a professional soccer player. Okay, if that doesn't pan out or when that's done... You need to go into something that that offers design. You need to have that element of design. If you want to learn about dentistry, and what you can do as a dentist, come shadow us at the office. If you want to go into interior design or something... You see things that very few people see. Right? And so that's bringing her onto like, "Alright, I'm going to talk to you as an adult, even though you're 13 years old."

And then my might same day, my adult who's on nitrous and four carpuls of anesthetic to be able to do an eyelash on tooth number four. There's that "You've done great! You're so good. I'm so proud of you. You made it through the procedure. Yay!" Right? So there is that, right? That's sort of that give and take that you have to do based on who you're working on and bring those those pediatrics up to the adult and help understand the adults. All of us need that sort of like, "You did great. You're doing great. And let's do this more."

And so I think that's great information. I think that's great. Sorry to cut you off. I just had to share that. That was yesterday. That was truly yesterday's day. 

Newton 28:08  
No, no, no! You're so right. And this is so pertaining to what we're talking about. So pertaining because you're absolutely right. You know, this discrepancy in terms of you treating teenagers as adults and adults as kids, pat on the back, and we just need to be alert. That's one of the things. You know, being an educator requires a lot of effort, a lot of emotion, a lot of energy, a lot of mental and emotional energy!

To be there, but not just physically be there, you've got to be there. For whoever it is who is there. Because if you have 10 people listening to you, who want to learn from you, or 20 people, 40 people. I mean, you've got to be able to sort out who's who, what they're in for, what their expectations are individually, and try to address them in a custom format, so you can meet their needs. And I hate to say, but I fail, because I can't meet 40 people's needs all at once when we're addressing them...

So you've got to sort of be kind to yourself as well, and say, This is as far as I can go as a teacher as an educator, I'm trying to say, "Okay, Newton, you've done a great job, man. This is as far as you can go. And from here on, it's up to them."

Dennis 29:39  
Yeah, but let's sidebar that because I think one of the things that I've learned is that... Alright, maybe you can't take a particular student from point A to point Z, but as you can take that particular student from point A to point D, and you can take another student who's at say J and take them to, you know, M, N, or O or wherever, if you can If you can help encourage growth, if you can give them stuff... I think -- and this is sort of a sidebar -- and one my frustrations when I when I go to courses, and I see teachings and stuff is very often...

And what I admire so much about you, Newton, is that when you teach, you teach. You're there to help people go from wherever they are. You're at A? I'm going to help bring you to C or D. If you're a J, I'm going to bring you up to M or N. But there's so many who teach who are just there to show you, here's what I did. Thank you and clap for me. Oh, here's what I did. Thank you and clap for me. Here's the before, here's the after. Here's the before, here's the after. And really no teaching on how I got from here to here.

And that's the things that frustrate me when I go to courses and I sit there, it's like, yeah, I don't give a rat's ass... Excuse me. I don't care that you're so good. What I care about his, tell me what you did step by step by step, so maybe I can take that little piece, maybe I can be 1% better for my patient and help get a better experience for them. And feel a little bit better about myself. You've spent many, many presentations. I have to ask. And I don't want to make an assumption. Does that frustrate you as well? Do you see that?

Newton 31:16  
Oh, yeah, absolutely. And I want to take that further, especially in the world of social media. 

Dennis 31:22  
Oh, good God, I'm glad you got to that. I was going to save that to the end. But you beat me to the punch! 

Newton 31:26  
We can keep it to the end if you like... But there's no no getting around that. Because you and I, you know, we're dinosaurs, so to speak. Because we're talking about being in person listening. But now with a world of social media, everybody has become an expert, because they show the free ops and the post ops, and they have all the great photography. And they're great work, too. 

Dennis 31:52  
Beautiful work! 

Newton 31:54  
Whether it's been photoshopped or not, I don't know. They might have; they might not.

Dennis 31:59  
Lighting makes a big difference also, but nonetheless, some wonderfully talented dentists.

Newton 32:05  
I'm 100% with you on that one. So, it doesn't matter. What matters is this is done just to pump their ego up and show the world how good they are. And see how many... Show the world how many followers they have, how many likes they have. This is not an education. This this is not true human relation to say the least.

Dennis 32:32  
It's marketing, its marketing.

Newton 32:33  
It's poor marketing. Because there there's a limit to that. You know, one can only go so far, living on a lie. And lie not meaning to say that whatever it is that they're presenting is not true. A lie is what is the motive behind what you are doing, what you're showing. And there is a direct connection, direct link, between who you are inside and what you do outside and how you reach out to the world. I can't, you know, a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. It's in the Bible. 

Dennis 33:16  
Well, if it's in the Bible, it's got to be true. So...

Newton 33:20  
I bad tree cannot produce good fruit. Period. That's it. Okay, so that's, you know, long story short...

Dennis 33:27  
We'll come back to social media. So give me number four.
It's a huge mistake to think that adults don't need protocols. 
Dr. Newton Fahl

Meeting Our Learners and Patients Where They Are

Newton 33:30  
Number 4? Okay, so you've welcomed the adults, you've shown them the value of their being there. And then you've mentored them through the process so they can relate to whatever you're teaching them and compare it to what they know. Then finally, you need to unleash them. It needs to be practical. So, you've been through all this?

Then you go, go, go! Go do it. And the adults need to perceive that whatever it is that you taught them has a practical, attainable nature to it. I'll give you an example. Some of my students and I'm pretty sure you've had these in your classes as well. Some adults, some dentists, they will want for you to say, Oh, show me how you do that little developmental groove. Can you just show me how to do that?" 

Dennis 34:38  
I was that guy! I was that guy asking good Bob Winter. "How do you do this?" Or I was asking Newton Fahl or Corky Wilhite or Buddy Mopper or name a wonderful dentist... I was that guy who was doing that. So continue on! Sorry about that. That was me.

Newton 34:52  
Right! But then, you're grabbing their work, and you're working on their work. Sometimes they say show me how to do it. But others say, "Hey, how does it look? It looks good, doesn't it?" And that's the question. "It looks good, doesn't it?" And then you look, and it doesn't look so good. And so now you've got to correct your line angles or your point angles or this, you've got your layer here or there.

You say, "You've got to change that. Let me show..." They say, "Don't touch my work! Don't touch my work." Why? Because if you touch their work, they don't own the result. And these are tough adults to deal with. 

Dennis 35:37  
How do you manage that when you're teaching? So, let's say that you have somebody that's in a hands on workshop, you're spending a couple or you're spending three or four days with them in your courses down in Brazil... We'll talk about that a little bit. And they're resistant! 

Newton 35:54  
That's easy. 

Dennis 35:56  
Okay, go! 

Newton 35:57  
You squeeze their brains. 

Dennis 36:02  
Well, give me more than that, because I that I'm okay with that. But...

Newton 36:09  
Let me tell you how do I this! How I squeeze their brains. Okay, this is the thought process. I think, well, if you're so confident what you you're doing is correct, you need to prove it to me. Prove me wrong, that what I'm saying is incorrect.

I'll say "Okay, so I'm telling you, this needs to be corrected. And you're saying it shouldn't. Tell me why. Tell me why." Show it to me, why this is correct. It can be a conceptual thing. It can be a practical thing of, you know, hands on nature. They say, Well, because of this and this. And then I say, "Well, but if you do this, if you do A then there's B. And B is antagonist away. How do you explain that?"

And then they come up with the C and then you say, Well, but there's a D... If I know my stuff, which I do, and I see this as wrong... And I'm not talking about dualism. I'm not talking about...

Dennis 37:19  
Explain dualism. When you say it's not dualism, meaning there can be two correct answers, right? You're saying that there's one way that we should be looking at this, right? That's what you're sort of suggesting? 

Newton 37:32  
Right. That's correct. 

Dennis 37:33  

Newton 37:34  
And you need, as an educator, you need to be respectful of somebody else's point of view on something that differs from your point of view. And that's one thing. But when there's clearly something that is wrong... Okay, okay. Let's say somebody is doing a build up. And the tooth is about a millimeter and a half longer than it should be.

And you say, "You need to correct this." They say, "No, this is nice. This is good." Well... "Okay, let's get into that. Are the proportions correct?" "Yes, they are." "How are they correct? How did you come up with the proportions? Did you take the anatomic width any multiply that by 1.25 And 1.333. And you got the 75 to 80% ratio?" "No I didn't." "And so, how did you come up with that proportion?" "Oh, I don't know."

So there you have it. You don't know! So that's what I mean by squeezing their brains. I try to pry, not in a way to belittle them or to bring them down, but to make them think that whatever it is that they're thinking may... just may not be correct. And I need to let them realize that, and all of a sudden, Eureka. Yeah, no, I came up with the idea! Sometimes they don't even realize that you taught them that. Adults are funny people.

Dennis 39:00  
Well, you know, I think it's so interesting, because we only know what we know. Right? And so this is what gets so challenging is that you're saying... As an educator, you see a certain thing, or you've been doing composites long enough, you've been doing aesthetic dentistry, you see this. And for the person who may be less nuanced in it, they they may not be seeing it, right?

And so, what they know is what they see. And so what you're doing is you're taking them back. You're saying I want you to unsee what you're seeing right now. I want you to take away what you're seeing. I want to take you back, and I want to see... I want to help you re-see things. And I think that's what's so critical when you're teaching, especially like what you're talking about, is helping them... helping whoever it is that you're trying to engage, how to look at it differently.

And I think that's what the challenge is, right? Because we're all caught into this is what I see. And because this is what I see, this is what I know. And so to take that step back and say, let me help you see it differently. And I think that's what... I think that's what... I think that is the golden egg, right? Let me help you see it differently. Let me help you see it in a different way.

Newton 40:18  
Right, right. Yeah. You're absolutely right. You're absolutely right. And there is the embarrassment aspect of it. 

Dennis 40:27  
For sure!

Newton 40:29  
Those who are embarrassed to show their work or to even admit that they're not as good as they'd like to be. And they are afraid that you will critique their work in a negative way. So then again, we're back to pillar one, making them feel welcome.

Dennis 40:50  
And when you say welcome, that also means safe, right? Welcome and safe. 

Newton 40:55  
Oh, yeah, these are equivalent. These are synonyms. Safe. You're in a safe environment. Nobody's here to critique you, to criticize you negatively, and nobody's here to bring you down, put you down. And I usually tell the story... it's a very interesting story. And I told us today because it was just actually, day before yesterday, when I started this module. I say, Listen, I because we have people, 20 students, 20 doctors, and average age is 35.4 years of age. Okay?

Dennis 41:35  
You're just guessing that number, I take it!

Newton 41:37  
No, I'm not. I have, I have the stats.

Dennis 41:41  
You've got metrics.

Newton 41:42  
I have got metrics, I've got my stats down, so I know who I'm talking to, how many years they've been in practice. I read their surveys, what they know, what they don't know, what have you. So, whatever. So we have this young dentist who's 21 years old, and graduated last month. And she's sitting in the class. Right? Because here we graduate a little earlier, not going through college formerly. So yeah, 

Dennis 42:10  
We'll talk about that in a little bit. 

Newton 42:11  
You can skip that and go straight into that. However, she is 21. And then there are others who are 42, who've been in practice longer. And she's so embarrassed of being among a group of elderly dentists who know so much more than she does. So, here's what...

Again, going back to the safe word you used, welcome means safe. And this is a story I tell. So when I went to Iowa, there was another student in my class, a grad student. Her name was Shamala Mureli, a fantastic young lady from India. And so she was there for the operative program. She and I had a meeting with Jerry Denny, and Jared Denny said, "You get out of this program the amount of effort that you put into it!"

Okay. And I was good with my hands. I loved operative dentistry. So I could very easily, within two months, a month, two months... I was seeing patients and everything like that. But she came from a background in India, where only grad students would work with high speed handpieces. But she had no experience with high speed whatsoever. 

Dennis 43:31  
Wow, that's crazy. 

Newton 43:32  
So it took me two years to complete the program. And I was second to Dr. Dennehy in the number of porcelain veneers anyone did in the department because I was very prolific. And this is the kind of expertise that I had. Her improvement level went from not using a high speed to using a high speed effectively, and drilling class ones and small class threes.

Does that mean that she did not get her time and money's worth of being in an operative program? I was doing a lot of porcelain veneers, and she was doing class ones in class twos... No! She improved a lot. I mean, she really improved a lot! But that was the level she was. So, I tell the story and say, "Whatever level you're at, it doesn't matter to me! What matters to me is what level you want to reach. If you're down here, you want to reach here. I'm here for you. I want to help you up. If you're up here, and you feel there's nowhere up you want to go, I'm not the guy for you!" If you've already reached the epitome of your dental career, maybe you're in the wrong class.

Supporting Adult Learners During Continuing Education Courses

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Watch to hear this tip from Dr. Fahl about how to help adult learners learn from their own mistakes in a way that encourages their growth.

The Importance of Continuing Education for All Dentists

Dennis 44:46  
Right. Well, I think that's a great story. Because, as we talked about, when we pre-chatted about this, one of the things that led me to Dental Online Training was I had taught a course. And it was a hands on course. And there was a number of students. And typical of any class, and I fall into this for sure, is that the people who are more advanced are going to sit towards the front of the class and the people are less advanced are going to sit towards the back of the class.

And Newton and I were talking about this before we recorded is that I taught this particular course, where we had several advanced students, like super advanced, and they were sitting right in front of me when I was in the workshop. And then we had a whole rest of the class that was really very rudimentary in their information, their knowledge, on composite dentistry. And when we're teaching a hands on workshop, it's different than teaching a lecture. When you're teaching a lecture, you can just go about, and you can just give your lecture, and you look for nods, you look for eye contact, and stuff like that. And that really sort of keeps you going through your presentation.

But when you're doing a workshop, you're looking to see acceleration of the students you're seeing, especially in like on a two or several day workshop. You want to see that people are getting the information, they're able to apply the information and grow from it. And so that I think that's whether they're starting from point A, you want to get them to point A to point C, or D or E or F... Wherever they can get in that span of time. And if someone started at point L, you get them to P,Q, or R, or wherever they can get to at that point. But you want to see that growth! You want to help them experience the understanding, and how to then be able to, you know, work with materials, or be more comfortable with the information.

And I think that's what you're speaking to, is whether you're just learning how to use a mirror, because I know this from from University of Michigan, some of the grad programs, there'd be foreign dentists that come in that never used a mirror when they were using their dental tools. Everything was direct vision.

And so, when they went to the grad program, for them, being able to use a mirror to do an upper posterior into a class 2, hey, you know, that's phenomenal! That's critical. And for others, it's getting into more elegant procedures. And so, you know, that's, I think you speak eloquently about that, Newton. I think that's really... I think that's awesome. I think being able to understand how our adult students learn is so integrated to how our adult patients also accept the information that we give to them. I mean, so many things, you're saying, I'm just sending them back there and thinking, this is exactly what I talked about with my patients, this is exactly what I'm trying to do with my patients.

So I think this is really great. It's really, really cool information. How long have you been studying this? When did you start studying about how adults learn?

Newton 47:40  
Some 15 years back...

Dennis 47:42  
And why... What was it that you said, "You know what? I'm not getting it, or I want to understand it better!" What was it that you said, you know, I've got to understand how adults are learning better?

Newton 47:52  
Well, we have a good friend who is a shrink, and he also is in education. So one day, we were just chatting about how to improve on our methodology at the Fahl center. And he was the one to say, "Well, listen, there's this... there's a Malcolm Knowles, there are other authors you can read about."

Because he himself... he is a professor at the University. So he lectures about that; he teaches about that. So he said, you should be reading more about this. And he helped me to create a program. And actually this goes away farther than 15 years. We're talking here, to be honest with you, we're talking about 20 years. We're talking 20 years, okay? So he said, "Oh, here's something that you should do to get your adult learners to improve on their learning abilities." So he walked me through the scope of the methodology, and then the he drew out steps that I should take to implement this in my teaching. 

I'll give you an example. We work with something we call pre-homework and post-homework. What is a pre-homework and what's a post-homework? Okay, adults need to be faced with their limitations, with what they don't know. So when they are asked to do a drill, an exercise, prior to coming to class, such as okay, you're going to be waxing up a central lateral and a canine. However way you know it. I don't know if you've taken other wax up classes or courses; do it the way you know it.

And when you get in here, I'm going to walk you through the A to Z according to my methodology, mentored under supervision, over the shoulder. And we're going to start this out. And then you go home, and you're going to have a post-homework, where are you going to be on your own, pillar number four, you're going to be on your own, doing the drills you've learned here, in contrast with what you knew before. So when the adults get in touch with what they don't know... Let me give you an example.

Okay, so you're waxing up, and you get to the canine. And you don't know if the distal lobe of the canine is straight, or is slanted. And then you say, "Man, I've always struggled with this. I've been through dental anatomy, but this is my Achilles heel!" Okay, I don't know how to do this. So bang, your brain is engraved, there's like a trigger memory there. So when it gets to class, and I teach the student how to do this, man, that's the one thing I didn't know. And he's all opened up, or she's all opened up to that information that you're presenting.

So these are part of the drills that compose the methodology. And this is when this friend of ours, his name is Evandro Guerrero. He is an author, he publishes, he's a very bright guy. So I am very much indebted to his input in bringing us up to speed on on this methodology on andragogy.

Dennis 51:37  
That's so cool. Yeah. So, we've been chatting for a long time. I don't know if you know that. And I haven't been able to ask you any of the questions I wanted to ask you.

Newton 51:46  
Oh, go ahead and ask me! I'm sorry, we got so carried away!

How to Support Adults through the Learning Process

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Catch this clip of Dr. Fahl sharing how he structures his CE courses to help adult learners best utilize their prior knowledge while also learning new skills and techniques.
Dennis 51:51  
So what I'm going to do is we're going to actually break this down into two sessions! So for those of you who are driving, and you've gotten to your destination, you can actually pull in, and we're going to turn this into two parts. Because I... This has been fascinating, and I knew that you had this adult learning education experience in your background, but I didn't know it to the level that we've talked about.

And for anyone who's out there, who is learning, or wants to teach... So you're on one side of the other, hopefully! You're gonna find that super, super informative, and super valuable. So we're going to finish off our first session here with Newton, and then we'll give you all a break, and you can hit us at the next podcast. So hang in there. We will continue on! We're going to have a second part of the Sharecast, so that you can then catch it.

Because I want to talk to Newton about his background and how he grew up loving dentistry the way he has, and so catch us on part two. And for those who are joining us, thank you for joining us and yours for better dentistry. I'm Dr. Dennis Hartlieb. And we will see you at part two of our conversation with Dr. Newton Fahl. 

Well, Dental Online Trainers, I hope that you enjoyed our visit with Newton. I had so much that I wanted to talk to Newton about and so much I want him to share with us that we had to break our conversation into two parts. So in part two, we'll talk more about Newton's influences and his journey into cosmetic dentistry. It's absolutely fascinating. I had no idea until we were talking about his path. So look for that episode coming up soon.

And, look, if you enjoyed listening to our Sharecast we love, love, love those five star ratings. So please, feel free to do that, and share with any of your dental colleagues.

Also, don't forget that DOT has so many great opportunities for learning, from our wine and unwind monthly webinars where we engage real time with our viewers as we bring in leaders throughout the dental industry, our monthly coffee and donut Study Club more mentoring sessions -- we hold those one Friday a month -- our live virtual workshops. In fact, we have a six tooth direct resin course coming up in June. And we have our blogs and, of course, our endless selection of hands on pre-recorded technique courses to help you improve the dentistry that you get to bring to your patients.

So check us out at if you're not a subscriber. As always, thank you for joining us. And as always, yours for better dentistry. I'm Dr. Dennis Hartlieb.
Adults don't want to be told what to do. They need to be shown what to do, relying on one's expertise and supervision, to walk them through the process. But adults want to be the builders of their own learning process. 
Dr. Newton Fahl

Dennis Hartlieb, DDS, AAACD

DOT Founder

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