Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Student Evaluations of the Portfolio Process

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Student Evaluations of the Portfolio Process

Article excerpt


The Standards and Guidelines of the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) recommend use of student portfolios to evaluate competency achievement. (1) Standard 15 states that every pharmacy college or school is required to assess and evaluate student learning and curriculum success, and Guideline 15.4 states, "Student portfolios should be used to document the students' progressive achievement of the competencies throughout the curriculum and practice experiences. Portfolios should be standardized and include student self-assessment, as well as faculty and preceptor assessments of the educational outcomes." Colleges and schools can assess such portfolios and use the knowledge gained to make appropriate changes in their curriculum when needed.

The University of Arizona College of Pharmacy incorporated portfolios into the doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) curriculum in 2002 to accomplish student- and college-oriented goals. Portfolios provide students an opportunity to evaluate and reflect on what they have learned over the past year relative to written competencies expected of them. These reflections are expected to help students develop professionally over the duration of their time in the program and reflect on those experiences while practicing. To help ensure that expected outcomes are achieved, faculty members at the college use students' comments about the curriculum, specific classes, or subjects taught within a particular class to assess and change the curriculum when needed.

When done correctly, student-oriented portfolios can benefit students, although not all students may perceive the benefit. For example, approximately 31% of undergraduate pharmacy students at the University of Manchester disagreed with the statement, "Building the portfolio gave me a sense of achievement." (2) Limited evidence exists to illustrate the perceived or actual benefit of completing portfolios. (3-5)

Because portfolios are now strongly encouraged by ACPE, this study was undertaken to determine students' perceived value of the portfolio process at the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy and to gather suggestions for improvements that might enhance students' perception of benefit.


This descriptive study used survey techniques on a convenience sample of first- to third-year PharmD students. Fourth-year students who were not on campus and could not be easily accessed were not included. The following background information provides context for the questions asked in the survey instrument.

Portfolio Process and Requirements

All PharmD students were required to complete the paper-based portfolio in January of each year of the program. Instructions about the portfolio process were initially given to students during first-year orientation and were provided again annually. Course coordinators provided guidance to students for their reflections by describing in their course syllabi the competency components of the outcomes expected that were covered in the course. Every year, at least 2 months prior to the time the portfolios were due, students also received "Outcomes Expected of Graduates," a document that outlined the competencies on which they were expected to self-reflect.

In the instruction document, the purpose of the portfolio assignment was described to students as follows:

* To provide a documented overview of the experiences encountered during the student's professional training, co-curricular activities (eg, professional organization activities, such as brown bags, health fairs, attendance at professional meetings), and extracurricular activities (eg, work, other organization activities).

* To connect PharmD program outcomes to the professional training process.

* To provide the student an opportunity for self-assessment during the professional training process.

* To create meaningful opportunities for the student to meet with their college of pharmacy advisor. …

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