Dr Vicki Staples (Senior Lecturer in Health Psychology)
The development of a portfolio is part of the practitioner training for a Health Psychologist, where a scientific-practitioner model is adopted, and reflective practice is core. Undergraduate psychology assignments tend not to focus on reflective practice, so students embarking on their professional training at postgraduate level need to be provided with practice and feedback on their reflections. To support this development the MSc Health Psychology programme, were looking an authentic opportunity for students to develop their reflective practice.
Initially, a paper-based portfolio was used, and while students collected a lot of evidence, they were not writing regular reflections and practising their skills.
With an awareness of the importance of digital skills development, it was decided to explore the use of an ePortfolio, to make the process of engaging with regular reflection easier and more transparent.
It was decided to adopt a hybrid approach to the ePortfolio, by providing students with the key headings, and content that must be included, but allow them the freedom of designing and maintaining the portfolio themselves, rather than working on a pre-designed workbook. This enabled students to develop a more personal element to their ePortfolio.
In the first year of running with the ePortfolio, students were given a choice of paper or digital, and only one student took up the digital option. However, the work they produced demonstrated that the ePortfolio was the right approach. The following year, the ePortfolio was made compulsory.
The learning outcomes relating to the ePortfolio are about students understanding the nature of professional training, the importance of reflection in the context of that training, and the opportunity to evidence their development. The ePortfolio enables students to do all of this and articulate the breadth of their development while on this course.
Advice for others
- Easier for tutor to keep regular track of students, and ensure they’re engaging regularly.
- Students can convert their ePortfolio to an alumni account to take away when they graduate and continue to build on the work they have already done.
- Prepares students for future training and engagement in evidencing their skills development.
- Developing digital skills in students.
- Not as big a technological jump as originally expected, so long as support is available as you’re setting it up and regular engagement improves familiarity around a new system. Scaffold your own learning of the system, as well as that of your students, you don’t need to know it all in one go.
Next steps for ePortfolio development
Think clearly about what information the ePortfolio should contain, and have an idea of what the end result will look like. Provide your students with clear guidance on what is expected, how to approach the reflective aspect of it.
Explore how the ePortfolio links with the learning outcomes of the module, and explore this with the students. It will help them to understand what is required of them.
Consider the value of formative activities, to ensure they are given regular reflective opportunities. Signpost these opportunities in class. This will help students keep on top of their portfolio, if it is a yearlong activity, rather than leaving it until the last minute.
Provide a mid-semester feedback, to ensure students are on the right track. Ensure this is on a set activity, so all students have the same opportunity for feedback.