Portfolio learning in general practice vocational training – does it work?


DavidSnadden Tayside Centre for General Practice, University of Dundee, Kirsty Semple Way, Dundee DD2 4AD, UK


Reflective learning has been widely addressed as an important learning mechanism in the educational literature. The creation of portfolios has been seen as a mechanism to promote this, though there has been little exploration of the place of a portfolio in general practice training. This study examined the introduction of a model of a portfolio learning strategy into one training region. The model had been developed by previous pilot work. The study explored the model in terms of its usefulness in general practice training and its relationship to reflective learning. An educational facilitator was used to support this introduction.

Workshops and written material were developed to disseminate and refine ideas generated in the pilot study. This was followed by visits to trainer/general practice registrar (GPR) pairs over a 2-year period. These visits included semistructured interviews, which were tape-recorded and analysed using qualitative methods. Additional written resources, video and audio material as well as new workshops were designed with the researched participants in order to promote the development of the concepts of portfolio learning.

Sixty interviews were carried out over a 2-year period with 44 pairs of trainers and GPRs. This included a total of 27 trainers and 44 registrars. Eighteen pairs were interviewed twice. Two focus groups were used at the end of the project.

Portfolios have a place to play in general practice vocational training. They act as a bridge between hospital and general practice. They can be used to develop a learner-centred curriculum, explore difficult emotive concerns and facilitate feedback. They do not suit all learning styles. Their use is determined by a cost–benefit analysis described in this study.