Assessing students' personal and professional development using portfolios and interviews

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Background and PurposeMedical schools are placing more emphasis on students' personal and professional development (PPD) and are seeking ways of assessing student progress towards meeting outcome goals in relation to professionalism. The Faculty of Medicine at the University of Sydney sought an assessment method that would demonstrate the value of reflection in attaining PPD, provide feedback and encourage students to take responsibility for setting and achieving high standards of performance.MethodsThe instruments used to assess Year 1 students in PPD are a portfolio and interview. This assessment format encourages students to explore ideas and values that are important to them and relevant to the PPD theme. A confidential interview, based on the PPD goals, is held with a faculty member who has read the student's portfolio.ResultsIn 1997/98, 96% of students agreed that they had engaged in useful reflection on their approach to the course and 91% agreed that the experience was worthwhile. A further 76% of students agreed that they could see opportunities to modify their approach in some ways as result of this exercise.ConclusionSustained PPD is essential in equipping doctors for the varied stresses of careers in medicine. Despite, or perhaps because of, the latitude in the Year 1 assessment, both students and faculty members found the process of value. This form of assessment acknowledges that the most valid assessment formats cannot always be made reliable and that in some parts of the curriculum it is more important to demonstrate trust in students' own motivation to become competent and mindful practitioners. The fact that the portfolio and interview are the only summative assessments in the first year emphasises the importance that the Faculty places on PPD.

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