The national portfolio for postgraduate family medicine training in South Africa : a descriptive study of acceptability, educational impact, and usefulness for assessment

Jenkins, Louis ; Mash, Bob ; Derese, Anselme (2013-07)

Publication of this article was funded by the Stellenbosch University Open Access Fund.

The original publication is available at


Background: Since 2007 a portfolio of learning has become a requirement for assessment of postgraduate family medicine training by the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa. A uniform portfolio of learning has been developed and content validity established among the eight postgraduate programmes. The aim of this study was to investigate the portfolio’s acceptability, educational impact, and perceived usefulness for assessment of competence. Methods: Two structured questionnaires of 35 closed and open-ended questions were delivered to 53 family physician supervisors and 48 registrars who had used the portfolio. Categorical and nominal/ordinal data were analysed using simple descriptive statistics. The open-ended questions were analysed with ATLAS.ti software. Results: Half of registrars did not find the portfolio clear, practical or feasible. Workshops on portfolio use, learning, and supervision were supported, and brief dedicated time daily for reflection and writing. Most supervisors felt the portfolio reflected an accurate picture of learning, but just over half of registrars agreed. While the portfolio helped with reflection on learning, participants were less convinced about how it helped them plan further learning. Supervisors graded most rotations, suggesting understanding the summative aspect, while only 61% of registrars reflected on rotations, suggesting the formative aspects are not yet optimally utilised. Poor feedback, the need for protected academic time, and pressure of service delivery impacting negatively on learning. Conclusion: This first introduction of a national portfolio for postgraduate training in family medicine in South Africa faces challenges similar to those in other countries. Acceptability of the portfolio relates to a clear purpose and guide, flexible format with tools available in the workplace, and appreciating the changing educational environment from university-based to national assessments. The role of the supervisor in direct observations of the registrar and dedicated educational meetings, giving feedback and support, cannot be overemphasized.

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