Medical Students’ Experience Using an e-Portfolio for Self-Regulated Learning in the Context of the Intrinsic CanMEDS Roles
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Self-regulated learning (SRL) is associated with academic and clinical achievement. Using Zimmerman’s (2002) framework, SRL includes a cycle of forethought, performance, and reflection. To support SRL, a web-based portfolio (e-Portfolio), in the context of the intrinsic CanMEDS Roles, was introduced for undergraduate medical students at a Canadian Medical School. This exploratory, qualitative study was designed to capture students’ descriptions of their behaviours using the e-Portfolio, to examine the extent to which these were consistent with SRL processes, and to analyze the gaps between intended and actual use. Data were collected using both semi-structured interviews and a 20-item, 5-point Likert-type instrument to prompt discussion. Second-year medical student volunteers were recruited for data collection until saturation of information was reached (n=14). Thematic and content analysis were used; data were interpreted using constructivist grounded theory (Creswell, 2007). Use of one interviewer, a standardized protocol, and member checking assured consistency and trustworthiness of the data. Students explicitly described the value of the e-Portfolio as an organizational tool, and as a form of assessment. Participants identified some elements of forethought and reflection but seldom described plans to achieve and measure outcomes. During the process of uploading materials to their e-Portfolio many of the students were able to make connections between the intrinsic CanMEDS Roles they are to assume as practicing physicians and the behaviours that operationalize these roles. Students viewed the e-Portfolio as a working folder compared to the faculty goal of a cumulative portfolio. Students endorsed self-selection of artifacts and faculty mentorship to improve relevance and future motivation for learning. Limitations included privacy concerns. Participants described a goal-oriented, in contrast to a process- or learning-oriented, approach to keeping their portfolios. The gap between students’ descriptions of portfolio use and SRL were most significant for the performance phase. The dual use of a portfolio for learning and assessment resulted in some compromises to the students’ use of the portfolio for learning. Strategies to improve SRL could include specific instruction on the nature and value of SRL, faculty mentorship during the learning process, and assessment of students’ learning processes.