Monday, December 15, 2008

Portfolios in Chiropractic Education

Part of our strategy as teachers in chiropractic educational settings is to encourage our students to take greater responsibility for their own learning, and where possible to personalize their learning experiences. For example, in the clinical bioethics course I teach to graduate students in clinical research, students use portfolios in part to collect articles and other ephemera that they themselves are specifically interested in. There is no caveat on what those articles might be; they simply have to reflect the student’s interests. Of course, as a means of assessment, any tool we use should enhance and support learning as well as be able to measure performance (1). One method that is gaining greater use is the student portfolio.

A portfolio is “a collection of papers and other forms of evidence that learning has taken place” (2) or “a collection of student work that exhibits the student’s efforts, progress and achievements in one or more areas” (3). Portfolios have been introduced into public school education as early as elementary school, and have found homes within professional nursing and medical education.

Friedman Ben David et al (4) note that portfolios contain student work over time demonstrating evidence for learning and progress toward educational outcomes or learning objectives. A portfolio may contain any of the following: best essays, written reports or research projects, samples of performance evaluations, videotapes of interactions with patients, records of practical procedures, letters of recommendation, annotated patient records, written reflections, journal articles, etc.

They further note that portfolios can contribute quite well to assessment. They do allow for assessment of learning outcomes, even to the point of being an effective method for examining outcomes not easily addressed by other means, such as personal growth and reflective ability. A portfolio can provide evidence of performance, which can come from numerous sources. That evidence is collected over a period of time, thus demonstrating development over time. It can track progress toward the learning outcomes as well. Finally, it has use for both summative and formative assessment.

Other benefits include the fact that portfolios may enhance interactions between students and teachers, by allowing dialogue between students and educators, by reminding students that learning is a two-way process, by stimulating teachers to reassess their teaching strategies, and by raising teacher expectation in relation to thinking ability and problem solving. Further, portfolios can enhance the use of reflective strategies on the part of the student.

As I noted above, I require my clinical bioiethics students to keep a portfolio. In it, they place their responses to a series of clinical ethics scenarios which they must address and analyze. They keep journal articles that they use for preparing a short classroom presentation, and they also keep other journal articles that they collect regarding their own personal interests. They can place newspaper articles which they find over the course of the term. They will add their final paper to the portfolio. They are encouraged to ask me to review it at any time, but they are not required to have me do so until the very end of the term. No assignment has a specific due date, except that all my students know the date at which the portfolio is to be turned in with all work completed. This allows them to allocate their time as they see fit. It has been a great success for me to see the quality of the work they do. I recommend that those interested review the references below and consider the use of the portfolio in class.

This will be my final post of the year. We are all getting ready to go on winter break, and I am doing so as well. I want to wish you all a great holiday break, good time with family and friends, and I will be back when 2009 begins.


1. Koretz D, Broadfoot P, Wolf A. Editorial. Assessment in Education, 1998;5(3)
2. Davis MH, Friedman Ben David M, Harden RM, et al. Portfolio assessment in medical students’ final examinations. Med Teacher 2001;23:357-366
3. Martin-Kneipp GO. Becoming a better teacher. Alexandria, VA; ASCP, 2000
4. Friedman Ben David M, Davis MH, Harden RM, Howie PW, Ker J, Pippard MJ. AMEE Medical Education Guide No. 24: portfolios as a method of student assessment. Med Teacher 2001;23:535-552

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