Reflective practice in portfolio development: Perceptions of fourth-year nursing students at the University of the Western Cape
Background: At the School of Nursing (SoN) of the University of the Western Cape (UWC) students (usually across all levels) carry out reflective practice when they compile a portfolio of evidence (PoE) to be submitted at the end of each semester. This contributes to their formative assessment. The PoE is a great assessment tool, although for various reasons it is often completed late by the students. Registered fourth-year nursing students were the sample population, because they have been actively involved in reflective practice through the process of compiling a PoE towards the end of every semester, and they have been doing this since their first year. In order to accomplish safe clinical judgements, nurses must be encouraged to become analytical and critical thinkers. Development of a PoE while reflecting on their clinical experiences is one of the strategies that can be used to enhance analytical and critical thinking among the students. Also, these learners carried out reflective practice, mostly on clinical activities that they were exposed to, and the PoE requirements and evidence are mostly clinically inclined (for example, incidents that they encountered, record of attendance at the clinical facilities). How the students perceive this process is important if they are to be encouraged to do reflective practice. Compilation of a PoE at an SoN of a university in the Western Cape requires and comprises a record of evidence that the learners put together and thereafter reflect upon. Objective: To describe the perceptions of fourth-year nursing students regarding reflective practice when compiling their PoE. Method: A qualitative design was used to explore the perceptions of registered fourth-year nursing students regarding their reflective practice when compiling their PoE. A purposive sampling method was employed, and three focus group discussion (FGD) sessions were held consisting of 6-8 participants per group. Data saturation was achieved at the third session. Tesch‟s method of data analysis was used. Ethical considerations were employed through the informed consent process, confidentiality, dependability, credibility of participants and appropriate handling and storage of the collected data and the tape recorder. Results: The results of this study show that through reflection the learners gained experience and professionalism from incidents that occurred and activities expected of them, mainly at the hospitals and classroom. Participants reflected on both good and bad experiences, and saw them as challenges preparing them for the future, bearing in mind that they had just about a month until commencing their Community Service Programme. For some of the participants the compilation of the PoE was a great teaching and learning strategy, as learning gaps were identified and it helped them improve their record-keeping and organisational skills.