E-Portfolios

Background

I have been pondering E Portfolios and what these might be. I feel that I need to really think about this, to be clear in my own mind, and perhaps to help others to understand  how these might be developed with students in our undergraduate midwifery programme. We continuously highlight the importance of life long learning with our students. Undergraduate midwifery education needs to provide midwives with the knowledge and skills of  basic midwifery competencies but, more importantly perhaps, midwives need to be aware of the importance of best practice based on reliable evidence. Keeping pace with  the speed of change requires life long learning and reflection on practice. When midwives follow routine or accepted traditional practice they may be unaware of changes in evidence. Women deserve the best care from competent and knowledgeable midwives. This can only be achieved through reflection and continual questioning of practice decisions (Taylor, 2006).

Portfolios

Midwives in New Zealand are required to maintain a  professional portfolio as evidence that they are competent and reflective practitioners. Items which may be included in a portfolio are

  • Record of employment, education and personal and professional development
  • A performance based analysis of previous and current practice
  • A competence based analysis of previous and current knowledge, skills and experience
  • Learning based on knowledge acquisition and skill development
  • Future goals and career development based on consideration and analysis of the previous two points
  • Individual reflective processes

(Andre & Heartfield, 2007)

It is important that midwifery students develop skills in maintaining a professional portfolio from the beginning of their midwifery career, at the commencement of midwifery education. A portfolio can be kept in any form that meets the needs of the profession  and the midwife who owns it. The portfolio will be an important part of the professional identity of the midwife and will reflect her personal needs as well as those of her professional body. She will able to present aspects of her portfolio as evidence of competency and will include personal reflections on her goals and attainments.

Students in our undergraduate degree programme are required to submit assignments in electronic form. It is sensible therefore that we should encourage and support students to begin to develop their portfolio in an electronic format. I met with one of my current students recently and was reviewing her reflective log which is part of our current course requirement. She had struggled with this and found it difficult as the written work is not her preferred way to to reflect. She is much more comfortable speaking about aspects of practice or her learning. One of the advantages of an electronic portfolio would be that  students could reflect in writing or with audio or video recording, through art, music poetry or any other medium they desire. This is something we should consider if we are requiring students to submit components of their e portfolio for  assignments and as evidence of reflection.

E- Portfolios

My friend and colleague, Sarah Stewart has developed an e portfolio using a variety of online resource. She has a blog with blogger in  which she reflects on midwifery, education and web 2.0. She also has a wiki where she provides evidence of her achievement and links her blog posts to highlight her thinking on issues. This is an excellent example of using freely available online resources to create an e portfolio. Sarah has also used video uploaded onto youtube and powerpoint presentations uploaded onto slideshare. All of these are useful resources for reflection. It is also possible to load documents into google docs which can then be linked into an eportfolio. I have my Masters thesis loaded into google docs. Some of these are open for all to see (for example youtube videos) and some can either be open for all to see, of can be hidden and only available to those who are invited to view them, for example the wiki or google docs. I have also commenced a portfolio in Wetpaint, at this point it is very early in development and I have not made it open for all to view. In time I intend to make aspects of my portfolio freely available.

According to JISC Uk ‘An e-portfolio is a purposeful aggregation of digital items – ideas, evidence, reflections, feedback etc., which ‘presents’ a selected audience with evidence of a person’s learning and/or ability.’

Sutherland, S. and Powell, A. (2007), CETIS SIG mailing list discussions3 9 July 2007. Rae Tolley, in a comment on Raewyn’s blog states ‘It is obvious that an institutional portfolio cannot be hosted within that institution for ever. For several reasons it is therefore obvious that the e-Portfolio should be hosted externally, which, apart from anything else, avoids problems of portability and degradation.’ In his website Rae states ‘It is noticeable that those schools which are coping with the latest initiatives such as VLEs, E-Portfolios or PLEs are invariably the schools that have learnt the lesson of ‘whole-school adoption’ and have been working together as a team, often for many years’.

While creating an eportfolio midwives and midwifery students can gain skills in using information technology for reflection, research, communication, information sharing and networking as well as producing a resource to demonstrate their competence and continuing skill development. These will be valuable skills for continuing development and professional development throughout a lifespan. The reflective processes involved with eportfolios will help midwives identify personal learning goals and strategise how to achieve these.

Proprietary resources have been developed to assist with preparing and presenting eportfolios, such as Mahara. Mahara has to be accessed though an institution, similar to the Moodle resource. Individuals can register but the full functionality is not available until it is accessed through and institutional website. If midwives commence a portfolio using Mahara they will either have to rely on the institution to continue to provide them with access to their eportfolio, or they will need to start again once their formal education is complete. Neither of these options seem optimal.

E portfolios can also be created on an individuals computer in their hard drive. Over time as the portfolio grows it may become difficult to organise and store all the variety of artifacts. It is also more difficult to share items of the portfolio with prospective employers or to demonstrate competence. If it is kept in an internal hard drive there is also no opportunity for sharing with others or developing community learning opportunities.

Midwifery practice and eportfolios

My masters thesis identified the desire of rural midwives to establish connections with other rural midwives, to share information and learning opportunities. Midwives would have this opportunity by sharing aspects of their eportfolio with others. Midwives can invite others in a particular group to view and contribute to aspects of their portfolio or could have some of their achievements available freely on the world wide web. Confidentiality issues associated with midwifery practice means that some aspects of the midwives eportfolio will always need to be a private reflection for the midwife alone.

E portfolios and midwifery students

In conclusion, having considered the different options for eportfolios I believe that students should be supported and guided to create their eportfolio with freely available learning resources such as wikis and blogs. I think we need to make a decision as an institution which of these we wish to support for our students and encourage staff to gain experience in their use so that they can provide the necessary support and guidance to students.

References

Andre, K., Heartfield, M. (2007), Professional portfolios. Evidence of comptency for nurses and midwives. Sydney: Churchill Livingstone.

Taylor, B. (2006). Reflective practice: A guide for nurses and midwives (2nd ed). Glasgow: Open University Press.

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3 Comments

  1. I agree with all of your comments, it is especially frustrating for rural midwives struggling with the feeling of isolation.

    I enjoy the fact there aren`t heaps of references used.

    Cheers
    Pam

    Reply
  2. Thanks for stopping by my blog Pam and for your comment here. I am increasingly finding that connecting and communicating through the world wide web makes the world a much smaller place. The possibilities for sharing information and increasing our knowledge is enormous. Some fear this new era of communication, they are worried that midwives might compromise client confidentiality, or lay themselves open to censure and ridicule by exposing their thoughts in an open environment. I can see the potential for these problems, but I believe that we can be honest and open in our thoughts and disclosures without breaching confidentiality. We, particularly those who are more isolated, have so much to gain from being able to share and communicate.

    Reply
  3. I am in absolute agreement with you and we can only ensure public confidence if we are able to be open and transparent. We really should be cautious in becoming like old school medicine with a closed shop.
    http://nzmidwiferypractisingreflection.blogspot.com/
    this is the new reflection blog that we have started following our post graduate course with Sarah.

    Reply

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