1. The problem
The assessment of clinical trainings (knowledge, skills and attitudes) carried out by nursing school professors and health centers, allowed to identify changes in the attitudes' area and the need to reinforce some formative aspects.
At the same time, we changed the study plan and thanks to the design and the implementation of the ePortfolio’s project, we could contribute (1) to a reflection on the students' performance as for their learning process and (2) to the academic tutor's orientation and guidance.
2. The context
This project is carried out at the University of Andorra (http://www.uda.ad/index.php/en/), in the first year of the Bachelor in Nursing (180 CE, three academic years) (http://www.uda.ad/en/bachelor-of-science-in-nursing/).
The ePortfolio has been implemented in a progressive way throughout three years of the bachelor, since 2011-2012 up to 2013-2014, in the six subjects of clinical trainings, during the formative periods, in health centers located in the Principality of Andorra as well as in Spain, France and Portugal.
3. Teaching and learning activities
The ePortfolio activities are: Reflective Diary, Learning Evidence, Collaborative Activity and Plain Care.
Regarding the reflection on the learning process, the proposal is a Reflective Diary: The diary is a tool of reflection that gathers information about the training experiences, in a continuous and systematic way.
This reflection allows a conscious learning and the student nurse can establish the link between the discipline's practice and its theory.
First year students do their training in different areas such as: hospital, residence for the elderly, primary care and special education centers.
ePortfolio structure: first year activities
Students fill out their diary every day with an experience concerning their training (during 45 days). The reflection is based on the learning arisen from their performance and their experiences. They interconnect their own knowledge, skills and attitudes and the professional team's work, based on real situations. The diary is an individual tool which can only be seen by the student and the academic tutor. This work began in 2011-2012 and it has been kept up to now, gaining more and more importance and interest. The academic tutor's monitoring is also daily and based on a Socratic Method. Before beginning their trainings, students do the first reflection so as to express doubts, expectations, etc. These contributions are shared between all the students. This first contribution intends to stimulate the reflection process, in order to share doubts and uncertainties between peers. Once they have finished their trainings, they go through a last reflection with the aim to do a final assessment of their learning.
Second year students, do their training in these different areas: hospital, primary care and maternity or pediatrics.
ePortfolio structure: second year activities
They have to provide two contributions a week in the diary. On the one hand, topics are based on their observation of organization issues such as: internal and external procedures, processes, etc. In addition, students continue adding comments as they did in their first diary, since they have to keep on analyzing their learning process through their individual performance, writing down their daily experiences.
On the other hand, these same students carry out a collaborative activity on a Wiki. We used Web 2.0 tools as they allow a collective construction of knowledge, resource sharing and a higher communication among users, and therefore facilitates peer learning.
Groups are trained according to the welfare area of maternity or pediatrics. Students of every group must be located geographically in different places (Andorra, Catalonia, France), where health systems vary from one place to another. This fact enriches the work and increases the learning.
Third year students, do their training in these different areas: mental health, community care and gerontology & geriatrics, intensive care, emergency service or surgery room.
ePortfolio structure: third year activities
Students provide a weekly contribution regarding learning and organizational aspects of their daily life, following the work of their first and second year. This weekly contribution allows to make a balance sheet according their learning process throughout the week and to decide on what aspects should be highlighted.
Another activity to promote reflection, relating and integrating knowledge and demonstrating learning is the Learning Evidence.
The evidences follow the phases stated by Barberà, Gewerc & Rodríguez (2009): (1) showing evidences with the experience, that’s to say based on actions, (2) selection of evidences is considered to be the capability to demonstrate the learning progress according to the aims and competences, (3) reflection on the evidences accompanied by the justification of the choice and the relation to the meaningful learning, and (4) publication of the previously mentioned phases.
Evidences aren’t just a list of activities, but they also promote students’ reflection on their own learning process (Marcelo & Perera, 2007).
4. Main Benefits
The ePortfolio contributes to substantial benefits both for students and teachers. Students show their learning process and can improve it thanks to their tutor's guidance and support. It is also of benefit to teachers as it brings information about their student's progress, thus allowing them to enhance the students' strengths, to identify their weaknesses and to assess them in a formative way.
The key is in the teacher's feedback and guidance, as there is an established regular communication that benefits both the student and the teacher, through forums that can solve doubts in every activity. It also implies a critical reflection on the performance, promoting the student's autonomy in making decisions and self-assessments.
As for every contribution to the diary, whether they are daily or weekly, the academic tutor issues a qualitative assessment following the rubric criteria, which include a set of strengths and weaknesses, as well as the quantitative grade that can be obtained according to every criterion. This type of assessment allows to clearly see the progress throughout the learning process and therefore, to promote, to give support or to improve with the time.
This work, including the ePortfolio design and its implementation, matches the new university study plan. This fact leads to use the same platform of the university, Moodle, since it's user-friendly and safe both for students and teachers who can communicate just by logging in the site.
The ePortfolio reflection activities promote students' autonomy, self-knowledge, self-assessment, critical capacity, willingness to improve, ability to synthesize, search for information, etc.
The ePortfolio also encourages the students' continuous learning process, beside their assessment. In this sense, using technology as a communication and assessment tool is an excellent learning strategy.
7. Lessons learnt
The use of the ePortfolio brings significant advantages both for the student and the teacher. In addition, it helps to interconnect knowledge, skills and attitudes in real situations. It makes students be responsible for their learning while the tutor remains as a guide.
It’s necessary to carry on studying new opportunities of improvement that an ePortfolio can offer.
Sara Esqué Boldú
Virgínia Larraz Rada
Estudis de Ciències de l’Educació