Nutrition students' experiences with constructing a portfolio about food and culture

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This study aimed to analyse nutrition students' experiences with constructing a portfolio about food and culture. The study examined what was gained from the experience at its completion and retained after a period of 1 year.


For the module ‘Human food in historical and social contexts’, nutrition undergraduate students were required to create a portfolio. Twenty-nine (of 49) students agreed to have their portfolios analysed in this qualitative study. The messages that were kept and recorded during the development of the portfolio were analysed by the discourse of collective subject method (DCS). Eleven students also participated in focus groups aimed to assess the impact of the portfolio on the students, as well as the process of its creation, in the long term. Transcripts of the focus groups were analysed using the DCS method.


In the portfolios, we noted important messages linking eating to history, culture, respect and commensality. In the focus groups, students highlighted that the portfolio helped them to reflect and to change their view of nutrition. The creation of the portfolio was considered exciting, involving and demanding.


Through the analyses of the portfolio and the focus groups, it was possible to observe that students were stimulated towards a critical, humanised and complex practice that respected the historical, social, cultural, sensorial, nutritional and political nature of eating. The portfolio seemed a suitable learning method for complex themes, such as food and culture, providing a different and collaborative formation process.

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