Exploring the use of the personal and academic development portfolio in a school of nursing in KwaZulu-Natal : the masters students' perspective.
Background: The use of portfolios for learning and assessment purposes is becoming a common trend globally. The school investigated in this study started using Personal and Academic Development Portfolios (PADP) in 1997, but there is limited research done in this area. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to explore the use of the Personal and Academic Development Portfolio (PADP) as a learning tool in a school of nursing in a selected university in Kwazulu-Natal from the perspective of masters students. Methodology: A qualitative exploratory approach guided by the constructivists’ paradigm was adopted in this study. The population was formed by two cohorts of masters’ students and data was collected using a focus group and individual interviews. The total sample size was 11. Data was analysed qualitatively and a number of themes and subthemes emerged. Ethical clearance was obtained from the university ethics board and ethical principles were observed throughout the study. Findings: Main themes in this study included conceptualisation of the PADP as a learning tool; perceived contributions of the different elements of the PADP; participants’ perceptions of characteristics of the teaching and learning process; participants’ perceptions on available support in using the PADP as a learning tool; nature of the student; perceived outcomes of using the PADP as a learning tool; and challenges. PADP was conceptualised as an unfamiliar educational tool, but a tool that promotes competency-oriented learning, selfdirected learning and self-regulated learning. Data revealed that elements of the PADP facilitated development of a number of skills. Although support was available to the students, this study highlighted the need to strengthen student support. Data revealed a number of challenges as well as positive outcomes associated with using the PADP as a learning tool. Recommendations: Recommendations included the integration of the portfolio activities in the educational plans of the program so that there is time allocated for portfolio activities especially for facilitator support and collection of evidence which challenged the participants. Another recommendation is the use of the e-portfolio and online support as the program attracts mainly adult learners who are studying part-time.
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