Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

The Use of Portfolios in US Pharmacy Schools

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

The Use of Portfolios in US Pharmacy Schools

Article excerpt


Academic performance is measured in a myriad of ways. One that has been considered useful as a way to collect evidence of learning and encourage reflection is the academic portfolio. (1) The portfolio in a university setting typically consists of documents that demonstrate a student has engaged in personal and professional development. (2) Over the past decade, the use of portfolios has expanded from the arts, humanities, and education to health care disciplines such as medicine, nursing, and pharmacy. Within these health care disciplines, portfolios fill the need to enhance student learning and provide the evidence that student learning has indeed taken place. (3)

There have been multiple definitions used for portfolios over the years. McMullan and colleagues offer a definition that synthesizes the definitions found in earlier literature. (2) They define a portfolio as a collection of evidence demonstrating personal and professional development through critical analysis and reflection of the portfolio's content by the student. There are many reasons that portfolios are recommended as the best way to assess the skills mentioned in the pharmacy accreditation standards. First, portfolios are suggested to be a more "authentic" method of assessing student learning, especially if the student is required to define for themselves what evidence will be placed in the portfolio. Second, depending on the type of portfolio (reflective vs showcase) that is used, portfolios can provide both formative and summative assessment to display development of a student across a curriculum. (4)

Of the two portfolio types, reflective portfolios are used to demonstrate student growth both personally and professionally as students select artifacts that show how their proficiency in an area has grown over time. (2) Reflective portfolios are discussed as being a more "constructivist" approach to assessing learning due to the need for students to select and assess the evidence of their learning. (5) Learning that occurs with reflective portfolios is most effective when used as a formative assessment. In these instances, students are more comfortable including personal and more accurate reflections of their learning rather than feeling the pressure to write and include what they think the assessor wants. (2) Conversely, showcase portfolios are commonly used for summative assessments, whereby students select their best work. (5) These types of portfolios can limit the potential for learning from the portfolio process as students may limit inclusion based on assumptions of what artifacts will appeal to the assessors. (2) This review focuses, unless otherwise stated, on reflective portfolios as they help bridge the divide between practice and theory, allowing students to take a deeper approach to learning and improve the students' ability to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. (5,6)

The use of student portfolios as a way to illuminate student achievement of professional development competencies has been detailed by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education in both Standards 2007 and 2016. Arguing for the use of reflective portfolios, the 2007 Standards suggest that portfolios include both student self-assessment as well as faculty and preceptor assessment of student achievement of the school's educational outcomes. (7) The 2016 Standards not only include the development of student self-awareness, but also call on pharmacy schools to develop other skills in students including problem solving, educating different audiences, patient advocacy, interprofessional collaboration, cultural sensitivity, communication, leadership, innovation/entrepreneurship, and professionalism. (8,9) Both sets of standards strongly recommend the use of reflective portfolios as the best method to assess these competencies in students. (7-9)

With the call in 2012 for portfolio use in the accreditation standards, 70 pharmacy schools, out of the 80 that responded to an electronic survey (73% response rate) reported using portfolios in their curriculum. …

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