With work-based placement a central pillar of student experience in the course, four placement related modules were designed to align practical opportunities with theoretical components taught throughout the degree programme. With increasing responsibility as students progress through the course, performance in each of these modules is aligned with the NHS Knowledge and Skills Framework and the Scottish Curriculum Qualifications Framework. This gives students from an early stage an awareness of how their own goals as students and graduates fit within the NHS career structure. The educational rationale for each of the PDPP modules is the same with an increasing expectation on student skill and development in line with course progression. Student learning is assessed incrementally, with an increased level of performance as the student progresses through the PDPP modules, from beginner level in first year to proficiency in the final year.
The practical experiences of students is further contextualised in an additional fourth year module, Continuing Professional Development, which aims to equip students with knowledge regarding the structure and operation of healthcare services prior to seeking employment and to develop skills in personal reflection, coping with stress, managing change and self-promotion alongside students’ clinical competencies evidence in PDPP.
Lifelong learning is encouraged and this is evidenced in student portfolios. These contain data showcasing students’ personal development and professional practice. As required coursework for the PDDP modules this approach has fostered reflection on learning and assessment, skills which are encouraged widely across the University. In the final year students are encouraged to prepare for job interview though their engagement with graded CPD module coursework and are supported in developing a personal future learning directions document in their PDPP Portfolio. These approaches were deliberately designed so that students would enter the workplace with a firm sense of their personal and professional learning needs. Graduates frequently report to us the utility of their final year coursework at job interview. Managers of NHS services have commended our approach to preparing students for interview and lifelong learning.
Students have many demands on their time and it is important to balance academic, professional and personal needs in order to create a mature and dynamic future workforce. Any module with a placement component is time demanding on students. With this in mind it was important to ensure that students could make sense of the direction of Portfolio material. This has led to ongoing development and reflection on what students should include in their Portfolio over time. Most of our students take up positions as speech and language therapists. The contents of the 4th year portfolio include academic transcripts useful for students who wish to embark on post-graduate study opportunities to widen out their potential career pathway.
In the early stages of aligning these modules and their corresponding coursework it was tempting to allow students to include in their portfolio material related to all aspects of their university development. It became clear that there is a time/workload demand on both students and staff in relation to what material should be submitted and additionally how to ‘grade’ something that is very personal and unique to an individual student. We have taken a formative feedback approach to the final PDPP4 Portfolio submission so that quality and formative feedback can be given to students – it is compulsory but ungraded coursework. This is balanced with a grade that is provided in relation to other aspects of PDPP assessment and a grade for the CPD coursework. We have found this approach helpful in fostering student’s personal approaches to reflection on assessment and learning and preparation of their Personal Development Portfolio. We have refined the contents of the Portfolio to include material following student feedback. For example, as well as the student’s academic transcript, the student’s portfolio also contains individual module descriptions which prove to be helpful for when our graduates wish to work or study overseas.
Our complete cohort of students were involved in the activity. Our current intake targets are 30-40 students per academic session, and this we have been.
In the context of encouraging students to develop Personal Development Portfolios we suggest that courses embed this as part of any required coursework. This need not be graded but can be used formatively.