Student portfolio brief: Portfolios can be described in many ways. Timmins’ (2008: 2) definition is particularly applicable to portfolios in relation to social care students: ‘A portfolio is a collection and cohesive account of work-based learning that contains relevant evidence from practice and critical reflection research paper on this evidence. Graham & Megarry (2003: 5) state the purpose of the social care portfolio is to provide students with a structure, which enables them to:
• Authorize their own learning
• Document evidence of learning and development
• Foster on-going reflective learning
• Articulate their own care work philosophy
• Present work for assessment
A portfolio has two main purposes:
(Fenge et al, 2014: 4)
In year, 2 of practice placement students are provided with a portfolio brief, which details the learning outcomes of the supervised professional practice. It also details the proficiencies that are met at each assessment piece. It is very important that students adhere to the brief and provide the material that is asked for. During the placement workshops, the brief is discussed along with the assessment process of the portfolio. It is imperative that students use this time to ask questions and ensure they are familiar with what is required prior to going out on supervised professional practice.
What is Evidence?
To enable the placement team to be able to assess the development of the student, they are required to provide evidence of their learning and development. Evidence of learning can take the form of specific write-ups, whether through reflective logs or critical incident analyses about a particular piece of work or service user; examples of planned and unplanned interventions and analyses of own achievements or difficulties. Supervision logs can also be used as evidence of learning.
The importance of evidence means the student must show their learning as it allows the student to demonstrate their understanding and application of the proficiencies.
A central part of practice placement is students integrating theory and practice. Students must apply their knowledge to their portfolio writing. Fenge et al (2014: 69) states this is ‘in effect the ‘working out’ within your portfolio to demonstrate the evidence base for your practice and the process by which decisions are achieved’. Theories helps professionals to understand why clients/situations present as they do; theories provide frameworks for thinking and understanding a person or situation; theories provide a basis for interventions. It is very important for students to utilize theories and research to support/provide evidence of their work in their portfolio. Written reflections should also identify the reflective model used and the associated stages of the model.
Over the course of the program students, learn a lot of new knowledge with some material being more pertinent to some agencies/client groups/ communities than others are. Students are encouraged to use material in their portfolios that is relevant to the agency/group they are working with. The portfolio also provides opportunities for students to make connections between different modules covered on the program and students are encouraged to do so.
Everything you do on placement has the potential to become evidence. During placement frequently ask yourself ….
• ‘’What am I learning from this experience?’’ and
• ‘’How can I write this up to show what I have learned?’’
What to Include?
A difficulty students often have is what to include in the portfolio. Brown & Knight (1994: 2) saw ‘a portfolio not as a heap of everything that came to hand but as a carefully selected range of artefacts that show progression and demonstrate improvement over time’. While students are provided with a portfolio brief that asks for specific items of evidence to be included, it can be daunting to decide exactly what provides the best representation of their work and development. However, the ability to make decisions for yourself, based only on the information you have, is an important learning process and one that needs to be developed as you progress towards being a professional social care worker.
Students should practice being discerning right from the beginning of placement about what to include in the portfolio, and use the assessment criteria in determining the amount of detail required for a given piece of work. A discussion with their Practice Educator will also support students in identifying what demonstrates good evidence of their learning during Professional Practice.
• Your portfolio will contain a collection of written evidence to show what you have learned during practice
• You need to produce evidence frequently throughout each placement not just at the end of the supervised professional practice
• You need to make time to record your experiences / learning
• Write up your evidence soon after the event so you remember important details
• Link to relevant proficiencies
A portfolio written over a period of time allows students to show the development of their skills and abilities. It is acceptable for a portfolio to include pieces of work from early in placement that are not ‘as good’ as later work. Many students have commented that looking back over a portfolio is a valuable experience in appreciating the progress they have made.
As student’s progress during the placement program, they are expected to become more self-directed in relation to portfolio construction. Students are encouraged to take increasing responsibility for identifying and evidencing learning needs, opportunities and experiences as they move through the program. All work should demonstrate increasing levels of knowledge and understanding, analysis and comprehensive use of evidence integrated into work and accurately referenced.
Plan it out
The portfolio and placement are often the longest sustained piece of work students have to undertake so it is worth taking time to plan. Coleman et al. (2002) state ‘Meaningful portfolios are seldom created without a struggle’, and so recognizing it as an ongoing project may help to maintain progress. It is suggested that students write their portfolio as they progress through supervised professional practice; taking notes can help to remember learning and a daily reflective journal can support students in tracking their personal and professional development.
Portfolios can be used:
Why is reflective practice so important?
Research shows that social care work is frequently challenging and complex (Graham 1994 cited in Graham & Megarry, 2003). It requires the worker to be able to reflect on and think critically about issues that arise in the workplace and to use developed skills as a means of their resolution (Graham & Megarry, 2003).
In order to prepare students for practice in this complex area, training must aim to develop students’ ability to both integrate academic learning with experiential learning from the workplace and to use reflection. Brookfield (1987 cited in Graham & Megarry, 2003) suggests that being able to critically scrutinize their own performance in the workplace and learn from it contributes to students being actively engaged with the learning process. This use of reflection develops practitioners who can cope with change and respond professionally to unpredictable events that present in the workplace (Schön, 1983 cited in Graham & Megarry, 2003). Since unpredictability is a distinguishing characteristic of social care work, it is suggested that reflection is a core element of social care training (Graham, 1994, cited in Graham & Megarry, 2003).
As identified above, the ability to reflect on one’s practice is a core skill for all practitioners. To facilitate the development of this, all students are required to show reflections on their practice and their professional development in their portfolio. A difficulty with reflection as noted by Graham & Megarry (2003) however is that students tend to provide descriptive accounts rather than reflective accounts with little critical analysis or personal learning.
Descriptive writing is reflection where the writer describes the events/situation but provides no evidence of reflection. This stage of writing is generally related to stage one in most reflection models (Rolfe, Freshwater & Jasper 2001) – The ‘What’ Model; (Gibbs, 1998) – The Reflective Cycle; Kolb Model of Experiential Learning (Kolb, 1984).
Critical reflection differs from the type of reflections outlined above in two key ways. Firstly, it examines events from a broader social and political perspective. So what does this mean? In a way, it means it attempts to look at the bigger picture. Critical reflections aim to look beyond the immediate issues and attempt to explore and understand the ‘how’ and ‘why’.
The second important characteristic of critical reflection is that it should also compare the issue observed or experienced with other known perspectives and knowledge (Jay & Johnson, 2002). This means comparing what is being reflected upon with what is known and written about the issue already. Therefore students should use the existing knowledge base; that is, the lecture material, core readings and other course material that have been covered, to compare the issue and examine it.
To help understand the difference between descriptive and critical reflection please see the box below which details questions that can be formulated for reflection:
• Who was there? (descriptive)
• What did he/she/they say? (descriptive)
• What did I say? (descriptive)
• Why did I respond in that way? (analytical/reflective)
• How did each of us feel as a result? (analytical/reflective)
• What if I had chosen my words/actions more carefully? (analytical/reflective)
• So what? Would that have made any difference to the outcome? (reflective/evaluative)
• Where can I go from here in my interactions with this person? /What can I do differently in future? (reflective/evaluative)
(Plymouth University Learning Development, 2010)
A common misconception about critical reflections is that they criticize. This is not the case. As with any critique, they can highlight the positive and the negative. It is important for students to note critical reflections are not negative tirades or purely personal opinions but are opportunities to look beyond the immediate issues and attempt to explore and understand how and why things in social care are the way they are. Student should use their knowledge base, core readings and research to help facilitate this process.
• Always use a reflective model as a framework
• Choose a model that you are comfortable with
• Make sure when writing your reflective piece that you include all stages of the model
• Reflect on both positive and negative outcomes
• Reflection is not a process of criticism but of learning
Brown, S. & Knight, P. (1994). Assessing Learners in Higher Education, London: Kogan Page.
Coleman, H., Rogers, G., & King, J., (2002). Using portfolios to stimulate critical thinking in social work education In: Social Work Education, 21 (5), pp583-595.
Fenge, L., Howe, K., Hughes, M. & Calvin Thomas, G. (2014). The Social Work Portfolio – A Student’s Guide to Evidencing your Practice. Berkshire: Open University Press.
Gibbs, G. (1988). Learning by doing: a guide to teaching and learning methods. Oxford: Further Education Unit.
Graham, G. & Megarry, B. (2003). Social Care Portfolio: An Aid to Integrated Learning
and Reflection. Dublin: Dublin Institute of Technology.
Plymouth University Learning Development (2010). Reflection, [online], available: http://www1.plymouth.ac.uk/learningdevelopment/Documents/Reflection.pdf. [accessed 06 July 2014].
Rolfe, G., Freshwater, D., Jasper, M. (2001). Critical Reflection in Nursing and the Helping Professions: a User’s Guide. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
• Illustration on the type of service, funding, client group, access to the service and services offered (200 words)
• Place your agency within a theoretical context/model of practice (D5:1) (200 words)
• Demonstrate your understanding of how you can practise safely and effectively within the legal, ethical and practice boundaries of the social care profession (D1.1) (200 words)
• Describe the relevance of the CORU Registration Board and the Code Of Professional Conduct and Ethics in relation to your practice (D1:7) (200 words)
• How does your organization respect and uphold the rights, dignity and autonomy of every service user? (D1:5; D5:3) (200 words)
• Identify the communication methods, including verbal and non- verbal methods and styles present within your organisation. How did you adapt your style of working and what or who supported you in doing this? (D2:2) (300 words)
• Outline the role of policies and systems in place in your organisation to protect the health, safety, welfare, equality and dignity of service users, staff and volunteers .Please include three examples to include information in relation to policies that govern the organisation and make specific reference to one external policy and the link to an internal policy (D:1.9) (300 words)
• Discuss what is the current data protection legislation and freedom of information legislation underpinning your practice in your agency (D1:13) (200 words)
(Maximum 2000 words)
Please identify how you have developed as a reflective practitioner on your first social care placement. In writing up your assignment, please incorporate all of the following key points below. Please ensure that you support your work with relevant theoretical frameworks and the Standards of Proficiency for Social Care Workers (2017) Please follow college guidelines for referencing and ensure that you are writing to a high academic standard.
I. Reflect on how you built and maintained relationships with the service users, providing examples of how this relationship enabled you to support the service users (D5: 8)
II. Reflect on how you are taking responsibility for your own health and well-being during placement 1. Please include a challenge you experienced in this process (D1:20)
III. Reflect on your professional boundaries while on placement, giving two examples of how you identified and managed any challenges in this area (D1:1, 21)
IV. Reflect on how your values and life experiences have impacted on your placement, and provide examples of how you appropriately managed the impact (D1:22; D4: 4)
V. Reflect on your ability to be able to recognize all types of behavior as a form of communication. Provide three examples of different types of behavior, and demonstrate your understanding of what the client was communicating, and appropriate strategies used to meet the need being communicated (D2:17)
(500 words each section)
The Student to plan, carry out and evaluate an individual or group intervention on Practice placement. This intervention may be a life skill or a creative intervention with an individual or a group (D5:16). The student needs to have a lead role in this intervention.
This intervention needs to include information in relation to planning such as needs analysis, purpose of intervention and detailed description of intervention. The student needs to give details of how relevant theoretical frameworks (D5:4), evidence informed practice (D5:6) and social care proficiencies (D1:7) were integrated at the planning, intervention, and evaluation stage of care planning.
Students need to ensure that they have gained informed consent to carry on the needs analysis and intervention (documentary evidence required), recognize the service user as an active participant and the need to work in partnership with service users, families and other professionals to carry out the intervention. (D1:15, D2:3, D2:12) The Student needs to justify their decision for implementing this intervention (D1:17).
The student will gather all relevant background information relevant to the service users’ health and social care needs and use the Collingwood Model (2005) to clearly state theoretical frameworks that have informed their practice and theoretical frameworks that they will use to intervene with their intervention with a clear goal and objective. (D3:1, D3:2, D3:3, D3:4, D3.5, D3.6, D3:8, D3:15)
The student will be able to recognize important risk factors and implement risk management strategies, always prioritizing and maintaining the safety of the service user during the intervention. The student will document how they have carried out a risk analysis clearly identifying any identified risks. (D3:10, D3:12, D3:14)
The student will critically evaluate their intervention following undertaking the intervention and identify what went well and what the student may do differently in future interventions (D4: 3)
The student will need to evidence their understanding and implementation of the Standards of Proficiency for Social Care Workers (2017) throughout their assignment.
(2000 – 2500 words)
• Knowledge for practice (D5:1)
• Professional Development (D4:1)
• Self-awareness Development (D5: 13)
Documentation to be included in the following order
Your portfolio is to demonstrate your application of theory so please ensure you include relevant theories and reference correctly as per college guidelines in the portfolio and reference page.
Portfolio Presentation – Please adhere to the guidelines BELOW for presentation of your portfolio:
• Ring bound soft copy – no large folders/files
• 11 font
• Calibri (body)
• 1.5 line spacing
• Heading for each section
• Content page
• Declaration page
• Title page
• Reference page
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