Portfolios, widely used in undergraduate and postgraduate medicine, have variable purposes, formats and success. A recent systematic review summarised factors necessary for successful portfolio introduction but there are no studies investigating the views of students inexperienced in portfolio use towards portfolio learning. This study's aim was to survey student views about a prospective Professional and Personal Development (PPD) portfolio.
This was a qualitative, focus group study. All focus groups were taped and transcribed verbatim, and anonymised. The transcripts were analysed inductively, using framework analysis.
Four focus groups were carried out with 32 undergraduate medical students naïve in portfolio use. Three themes relevant to portfolio introduction emerged. The first theme was the need for clear information and support for portfolio introduction, and anxieties about how this could be supported effectively. The second was that students had negative views about reflective learning and whether this could be taught and assessed, believing formal assessment could foster socially acceptable content. The third was that participants revealed little understanding of reflective learning and its potential benefits. Rather portfolios were seen as useful for concrete purposes (e.g., job applications) not intrinsic benefits.
Undergraduate medical students without experience of portfolios are anxious about portfolio introduction. They require support in developing reflective learning skills. Care must be taken to ensure students do not see portfolios as merely yet another assessment hurdle.