It is assumed that portfolios contribute to self-regulated learning (SRL). Presence of these SRL processes within the documentation kept in portfolios is presupposed in common educational practices, such as the assessment of reflective entries. However, questions can be asked considering the presence of SRL within portfolios. The aim of this study was to gain insight into the documentation of SRL processes within the electronic (e)-portfolio content of medical trainees. SRL consists of numerous processes, for this study the focus was on self-assessment via reflection and feedback, goal-setting and planning, and monitoring, as these are the processes that health professions education research mentions to be supported by portfolios.
A database containing 1022 anonymous e-portfolios from General Practitioner trainees was used to provide descriptive statistics of the various available e-portfolio forms. This was followed by a quantitative content analysis of 90 e-portfolios, for which, a codebook was constructed to rate the documentation of the included SRL processes.
The numbers of forms in the e-portfolios varied to a great extent. Content analysis showed a limited documentation of reflective entries, and available entries mainly described events and experiences without explanations and context. Feedback was generally limited to comments on what went well and lacked specificity, context and suggestions for future action. Learning goals and plans were short of specificity, but did contain challenging topics and different goals were compatible with each other. 75% of the e-portfolios showed (limited) signs of monitoring.
The e-portfolio content showed limited documentation of SRL processes. As documentation of SRL requires time and asks for a high level of introspection and writing skills, one cannot expect documentation of SRL processes to appear in e-portfolio content without efforts.