Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



College of Education and Human Services


Curriculum & Instruction/Literacy Studies

Committee Chair

James Rye

Committee Co-Chair

Jeffrey Carver

Committee Member

Scott Cottrell

Committee Member

Patricia Obenauf

Committee Member

John Oughton


The West Virginia University School of Medicine (WVU SoM) created and implemented medical student electronic portfolios in the 2012-2013 academic year as a means to stimulate self-reflection and life-long learning, document competency attainment using both formative and summative assessments of performance and facilitate career counseling and advising. Though existing research explores the benefits and challenges of electronic portfolios in medical education, few studies investigate them from the medical student perspective. This phenomenological qualitative research study examined medical student perceptions---through their stories of the electronic portfolio system as a tool for documenting and reflecting on performance---in order to better understand how electronic portfolios can be effectively designed and integrated in the medical doctor degree curriculum. Convenience sampling was used to recruit medical students (n = 15) in years two and three of the curriculum for in-depth, semi-structured interviews to discover student views, experiences and recommendations regarding the use of the portfolio in their medical education. A document analysis of student portfolio contents and structure was conducted as a means to corroborate findings from the interview process (method triangulation). Interviews with graduate medical education residents (n = 5) were also used in order to provide a retrospective view and to triangulate with findings obtained from medical student interviews (source triangulation). Inductive content analysis using a digital card sort was employed to uncover common themes and patterns in participants' lived experiences and a narrative description of findings was reported. The findings revealed that students considered the convenience of the electronic portfolio as an advantage, along with the capability of the electronic portfolio to store and organize documentation and evidence of competency. Medical students also credited the electronic portfolio for aiding them in tracking and self-correcting performance and behaviors based on evidence contained within the electronic portfolio. Five conclusions emerged from the findings, including: (1) convenient storage and organization promoted self-assessment of performance, (2) multiple barriers limited students access, and accordingly, the extent to which they embraced the tool; (3) electronic portfolio contents and reflection activities sufficiently demonstrated academic performance, but inadequately demonstrated personal growth and development; (4) limited training opportunities for electronic portfolio use and purpose inhibited student engagement; and (5) electronic portfolio integration and involvement minimally engaged students from all years of the curriculum. Future research should focus on (1) the development of open-ended reflection prompts that both prepare students for residency and aim to understand students as individuals, (2) effective integration strategies that enhance medical student engagement with portfolio activities and reflective practice during pre-clinical education and (3) the creation of training modules and mentoring or advising programs that will aid medical students in meaningful application of the electronic portfolio for residency preparation and reflection on learning.