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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: January 2018

10 - Portfolios


This chapter discusses the use of portfolio learning generally, and more specifically its applications in psychiatry. It focuses on the use of portfolios in specialist training in psychiatry, but also their use in revalidation. The chapter considers what portfolio learning is, and the advantages and disadvantages of this method. The models that have previously been established for a portfolio framework will be discussed and we will evaluate the e-portfolio format. Finally, we will explain the recent process of developing the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Portfolio Online platform, and look ahead to the future developments in this area.

What is a portfolio?

Portfolios have been in use for many years in a wide variety of fields, but more recently they have been applied in the training of health professionals. They have become a feature of many undergraduate medical curricula, and feature as part of postgraduate specialist training for all the major medical specialties. A portfolio has been simply defined by Mathers et al (1999) as ‘a collection of evidence maintained and presented for a specific purpose’. A more detailed description is that portfolios should include ‘a documentation of learning, an articulation of what has been learned and a reflective account of the events documented or personal reflection’ (Snadden & Thomas, 1998a). The second definition highlights the difference between a professional portfolio, which is used only to present examples of work or to list achievements, and a learning portfolio, which includes a record of educational experience but also contains reflection on this, and planning for future learning.

An important feature of learning portfolios is that they rely on, and encourage, self-directed learning, which is a key feature of adult learning. Kolb's learning cycle (Fig. 10.1) describes a process where concrete experience leads to reflection, which leads to conceptualisation and learning from the experience, which leads to further experimentation with trying out new knowledge, which then results in further experience (Kolb, 1984).