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Portfolio: What is an educational portfolio?

An educational (or professional) portfolio is a collection of evidence that demonstrates the progressive acquisition of knowledge, skills, and attitudes. It also gives a picture of your individual experience in a learning situation. Portfolios were first developed in the 1940’s as an alternative to testing. They have become the primary means for evaluation of professional competence in fields like architecture, writing, most fine arts, and education. This is because they allow flexibility for an individual to give a representative view of their accomplishments and competence. Medicine, being both a science and an art, is very suitable for the use of portfolios.

The educational portfolio is designed to:

  • Stimulate self-directed learning
  • Promote life-long learning habits
  • Encourage self-assessment 
  • Allow more flexibility and creativity to demonstrate competence.

This portfolio is an opportunity for you to demonstrate both your growth in the acquisition of the knowledge, skills, and attitudes required in the field of Internal Medicine and your level of competence in the six core competencies of the College of Medicine.

There are six required elements.

  1. SMART goals
  2. Formative feedback (minimum 1 per month)
  3. Patient write-ups (select 4 best for final inclusion)
  4. Reflective writing,
  5. Post discharge phone call log
  6. Real-time EBM submissions (8 minimum) 

All other submissions described are optional. You have the flexibility to create your own optional submissions. The optional elements of the portfolio, many of which come from previous students, are suggestions to enhance your competence. For some of you, these will help you achieve your goals.


You will be assigned a portfolio coach as:

  • Resource about the clerkship
  • Formative feedback source
  • Mentor (support and encouragement)

You initiate contact.  Advisors expect you to contact them. Aim to meet during week 2 and as thereafter according to your needs.  You will be evaluated based on your final level of competence.

Access Electronic Portfolio

Click here for on-line portfolio for the Class of 2018 students. (password required)

Portfolio Evaluation

Summative feedback on the portfolio occurs after the clerkship ends by Drs. Harrell and Nall.

Any portfolio entries submitted during the last week of the clerkship will not be evaluated by your portfolio coach as it is too late to be formative feedback.

Failure to complete one required element of the portfolio will result in a lowering of that competency score by 1 point.

Failure to complete more than one required element of the portfolio will at least result in an incomplete (“I” grade) for the clerkship and depending on the circumstances, may result in failure (“F” grade ) of the clerkship.

Other than the patient write-ups which can help, hurt, or have no effect on your grade, almost everything else will either help you or have a neutral effect on your grade. Portfolio submissions serve as supplemental information in the context of the teams’ evaluations. In general, the higher your team evaluations, the less effect of the portfolio unless you do not complete the portfolio or submit substandard write-ups. Students with low team evaluations but many high quality entries in the portfolio will see the greatest benefit from the portfolio.

Real Examples of How Portfolio May Affect the Final Grade

Student 1- completes only the required elements of the portfolio but does them well, earns excellent (mostly 8 range) team evaluations, and performs well on the exam. This student earned an A as they didn’t need to provide additional evidence of their excellent performance.

Student 2- completes the portfolio including a few optional elements but submits them all at the end without the benefit of formative feedback. Team evaluations are very good (7-9 range) and scores well on the exam (84). Unfortunately the submitted write-ups barely meet the minimum standard so although the team rated the student 7.5- 7.9 on patient care elements (history, PE, clinical reasoning, medical decision making) the work in the portfolio does not support that high rating and the score for this competency is dropped to a 6.5 which drops the student’s final score from the A to B+ range.

Student 3- consistently seeks feedback on the portfolio and submits many optional entries related to his goals and feedback. He does well on the exam (79) but his team evaluations are generally low (mostly 6 range). The quality of the write-ups he submitted in his portfolio was significantly better than the team evaluations for patient care and resulted in an additional point in patient care. Also the amount and quality of work submitted under PBLI, and SBP suggested this student did more than the team recognized so a point was added to each. This all resulted in the student grade raising from the B range to the B+ range.

Student 4- consistently seeks feedback on the portfolio and submits many optional entries related to her goals and feedback. She gets wonderful team evaluations (8 range) and does extremely well on the exam (87). The quality of the work in her portfolio aligns with the other evaluations. Thus, it has no effect on her grade. She would have earned an A without submitting anything extra.

Student 5- seeks feedback on the write-ups, which are high quality but otherwise just submits the required elements of the portfolio. She performs extremely well on the exam (92) but team evaluations are lower than expected based on the write-ups and exam score (mostly 7 range). The patient care competence is bumped up a point based on the excellent write-ups. Additional submissions in PBLI, SBP, and/or patients evaluations probably would bumped her up to the A range but without any additional information, the teams’ evaluations remain unchanged in competencies other than patient care and medical knowledge.

Student 6- gets some feedback on the portfolio and makes some optional submissions (2 educational talks to team, brief patient advocacy submission, a mini-CEX, and a systems error analysis that doesn’t really focus on the system). Does well on the exam (80) and team evals are mostly 7 range (except professionalism 9). The write-ups align with the team ratings so no points are added or subtracted. The additional items submitted in PBLI are giving talks to teams which most students do and a single mini-CEX. This isn’t enough to meaningfully comment on the student’s PBLI competence beyond what the team said so an additional 0.1 point is added for the effort. The SBP submissions also each add 0.1 point as the student did do something more. Had the submission been more thoughtful (e.g. error analysis actually follow the directions) more points may have been added but notice there was no penalty for trying something even if it wasn’t done correctly. In this case the student did get a few bumps to their scores but it wasn’t enough to affect the grade, which makes sense as they didn’t really provide evidence of a performance different than the team evaluations.