Utilizing ePortfolios as a Core Component of a Professional Practice Graduate Program

Concurrent Session 1

Brief Abstract

In our child life graduate program, the use of e- portfolios is a core component of the learning journey.  As professional programs focus on applied learning, the ability to have one place to document how learning has occurred over time easily tracks skill acquisition and professional growth.


Allison Sohanlal obtained her Masters of Child Life and Family Centered Care degree from Wheelock College in Boston, Massachusetts and a Masters of Health Science Education at McMaster University. Allison's thesis work in her Masters of Health Science Education degree focused on the educational impact of the Evaluation Tool for Child Life Interns. Allison is an Assistant Professor for the Department of Pediatrics and is the Clinical Education Coordinator within the Masters of Science in Child Life and Pediatric Psychosocial Care Program. Allison is also a faculty lead for the Program for Interprofessional Practice, Education and Research (PIPER) at McMaster University. Since 2003, Allison's professional career as a certified child life specialist (CCLS) has focused on advocating for the emotional and psychosocial needs of children and adolescents facing stressful or traumatic life events. As an advocate for family centered care, Allison's career has involved working in early intervention services in the community, within the hospital sector, volunteering overseas and the academic and clinical preparation of child life specialists.

Extended Abstract

Utilizing portfolios in health professions education continues to grow in popularity with a great deal of recent research focusing on the use of eportfolios (Clarke & Boud, 2018).  We utilize eportfolios as learning portfolios which can be developed in a variety of ways, highlighting the unique and diverse journey of our students.  Clarke & Boud have identified six elements that are key to online learning portfolios for health science students: acting as a repository, a collection of tasks completed over time, coursework and learning outcomes, competencies attained, feedback and curated collections of evidence (2018, p. 481).  Reflective practice is embedded in the use of learning portfolios.  In a recent study examining the impact of reflective learning for higher education students, Chang found that reflective practice helps "with personal and professional reflection, scaffolding ideas and concepts, reflecting on past actions, in-action and future actions" (2019, p. 96).  Professional programs seeking to embed transformative learning experiences into their curriculum should consider the use of learning portfolios, regardless of whether they follow a traditional, blended or online educational format.  As health professional programs aim to involve applied learning for a particular field of practice, the ability to have one place to document how learning has occurred across the program helps students and faculty to easily track skill acquisition and professional growth over time.  Incorporating learning portfolios in professional training programs also helps to facilitate skills in problem solving, collaboration and communication, all of which are seen as required skills for healthcare professionals in the 21st century (Konnerup & Ryberg, 2018).  The use of eportfolio platforms such as PebblePad allow students to fully engage in their own learning experience while completing their degree and then upon graduating, benefit from acting as one place where they can continue to access rich information about their learning journey.

In our two year professional practice graduate program, we have gradually implemented the use of learning portfolios using PebblePad for the purpose of ongoing reflective opportunities for students.  Being informed by current evidence based practice, our aim is to embed the use of learning portfolios throughout the program as a core component as opposed to an "add-on" to a single course (Clarke & Boud, 2018).  We aim to have graduates who surpass minimum competence to show strong capability to adapt to meet the complex needs of children and families (Fraser & Greenhalgh, 2001).  The use of learning portfolios has allowed us to follow student progress throughout the program, provide formative and summative feedback, strengthen skills in reflective practice, highlight students' breadth of learning from coursework and clinical internships and serves as a lifelong portfolio they can continue to use after they graduate from our program. 

Feedback from students to date has been positive, showing increased engagement with course material, intrinsic value of reflecting on specific experiences and what was learned, and a way to document how they have acquired clinical competencies required of the profession.  Of particular note is feedback from our clinical internship partners who in reviewing the students' information via a learning portfolio, were better prepared to interview them for a potential internship placement and felt they had more valuable information to make a decision of best fit (compared to our previous process of providing a PDF copy of a resume and cover letter).  Several students plan to adapt their learning portfolio after graduation and use it to showcase their skills for future job interviews.

During this discovery session, permission to share student portfolios has been granted to the presenter to show 3-5 unique learning portfolios of our students and how they have been utilized throughout the program, for internship selection, for reflective practice and for post graduate job interviews.  Handouts will be provided to show the process of scaffolding the inclusion of learning portfolios into our curriculum over the last two years (as well as future plans) and how we are evaluating student satisfaction and outcomes.  The discussion will also allow for a conversation amongst attendees and the presenter of various ways learning portfolios can be utilized in professional practice programs to enhance the student experience from orientation to graduation and promote opportunities for reflection that help students be more effective in their future health professional roles. 

Session outcomes:

By attending this discovery session, participants will:

  • Understand the importance of learning portfolios embedded into the core of a program as opposed to a single course or task
  • Consider the components of a learning portfolio that will enhance the learning experience of health professions students
  • View the unique learning portfolios of graduate students from our program
  • Participate in a discussion amongst colleagues about the benefits and challenges of using learning portfolio platforms from student, faculty and community perspectives.


Chang, B. (2019). Reflection in learning. Online Learning, 23(1), 95-110.

Clarke, JL. & Boud, D. (2018).  Refocusing portfolio assessment:  Curating for feedback and portrayal.  Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 55(4): 479:486.

Fraser, SW & Greenhalgh, T. (2001).  Coping with complexity: educating for capability.  BMJ, Vol 323: 799-803.

Konnerup, U. & Ryberg, T. (2018).  Flipped PBL curriculum - creating the next generation of PBL learning principles. PBL 2018 International Conference accessed at:  https://www.researchgate.net/publication/324834635_Konnerup_U_Ryberg_T_2018_Flipped_PBL_Curriculum_-_Creating_the_Next_Generation_of_PBL_Learning_Principles