What Is the Relationship Between a Preclerkship Portfolio Review and Later Performance in Clerkships?

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Medical educators struggle to find effective ways to assess essential competencies such as communication, professionalism, and teamwork. Portfolio-based assessment provides one method of addressing this problem by allowing faculty reviewers to judge performance, as based on a longitudinal record of student behavior. At the Feinberg School of Medicine, the portfolio system measures behavioral competence using multiple assessments collected over time. This study examines whether a preclerkship portfolio review is a valid method of identifying problematic student behavior affecting later performance in clerkships.


The authors divided students into two groups based on a summative preclerkship portfolio review in 2014: students who had concerning behavior in one or more competencies and students progressing satisfactorily. They compared how students in these groups later performed on two clerkship outcomes as of October 2015: final grades in required clerkships, and performance on a clerkship clinical composite score. They used Mann–Whitney tests and multiple linear regression to examine the relationship between portfolio review results and clerkship outcomes. They used USMLE Step 1 to control for knowledge acquisition.


Students with concerning behavior preclerkship received significantly lower clerkship grades than students progressing satisfactorily (P = .002). They also scored significantly lower on the clinical composite score (P < .001). Regression analysis indicated concerning behavior was associated with lower clinical composite scores, even after controlling for knowledge acquisition.


The results show a preclerkship portfolio review can identify behaviors that impact clerkship performance. A comprehensive portfolio system is a valid way to measure behavioral competencies.

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