Abstract Title | Building a Learning Community Around Assessment Portfolio Advising


  1. Margaret L. McKenzie
  2. MD


Portfolios and ePortfolios




Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine

  • Advising is important for the success of assessment portfolios but fits the conceptual framework of complex adaptive challenge.


  • While advisors are chosen for experience, interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence, they may not come to the advising table with all the necessary competencies.


  • A learning community, by creating a network of peer mentors, can facilitate skill development, but requires an intentional approach, regular meetings and reflection in a supportive environment.


  • Challenges, and lessons learned led to can serve to refine skills and support the development of a robust training program which can facilitate necessary skill development.
  • Advising is crucial for the success of assessment portfolios in medical education and thus training of advisors is important.


  • In addition to traditional workshops, advisors can benefit from building a learning community which serves as a forum for continuous growth, learning and improvement.


  • According to Peter Senge, Systems Thinking, Personal Mastery, Mental Models,Shared Vision and Team Learning are disciplines that can foster the development of such a community. Once committed to continuous growth, consensus building and ownership around the group's vision allows members to model the actions they want to develop.
Summary of Work

Themes, developed from feedback during weekly advising meetings and student feedback, were used to identify new skills for successful advising. Planned faculty development workshops then provided standardization of advising approaches in many areas including:

  • Boundary Setting
  • Conflict management
  • Learning plan development
  • Student remediation guidelines
  • Crucial conversations
  • Engaging reflective practice among students
However, it was the weekly meeting forum where advisors met that provided an intentional approach to managing advising issues that arose.  The group practiced reflection on several encountered advising challenges in a supportive environment that provided the learning and fine tuning necessary for effective advising.


Take-home Messages

Rather than relying on the variable expertise of Faculty Advisors, building a learning community is a deliberate approach to skill acquisition for portfolio advising.  By creating a network of peer mentors, the group can build on systems thinking and through successes, challenges and lessons learned in a supportive environment, stretch the ability of the group to grow and develop new skills needed for effective advising.  

A learning community (Senge) involves:

  • Building a culture of systems thinking,
  • Fostering personal mastery and the desire for continuous learning,
  • Articulating shared vision
  • Promoting team learning 

I would like to acknowledge Dr James Young, Executive Dean of Cleveland Cinic College of Medicine of Case Western for his support of my work.

Summary of Results


Physician Advisor Feedback on Advising Role


I know when to bring concerns regarding a student to the

   Physician Committee for review and consultation


I know when to refer students to the Associate Dean of Student

   Affairs for additional evaluation or intervention


I know when to present a student for potential referral to the

   Promotions and Review Committee


I know when to refer students for additional support such as time

 management, career or mental health counseling, etc.


I believe I am able to identify “at risk” medical students


I enjoy being a physician advisor to CCLCM students


Responses: (SD) Strongly Disagree=1 (D) Disagree=2 (A) Agree=3 (SA) Strongly Agree=4



Senge, Peter et al.  The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook:  Strategies and Tools For Building A Learning Organization.


Epstein RM, Hundert EM,.  Defining and Assessing Professional Competence.  JAMA 2002; 287(2): 226-235.


 Dreissen, Erik, et al.  Portfolios in Medical Eduation;Why do they meet with mixed success? A Systematic Review Med Ed. 2007: 1224.


The Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western University instituted a competency-based portfolio assessment system in 2004.  Because advising was identified as crucial to the success of the portfolios, physician advisors were appointed for the advising component of the portfolio assessment system to promote reflective practice and help students develop self assessment and self -regulation skills needed for mastery of the competencies.

While the advisors were chosen for their interpersonal skills and their experience, training was needed to adapt to their new role.

Workshops were designed based on anticipated needs, but as the team developed, it was the learning community that provided the longterm growth and skill development that led to successful advising.

Summary of Work
Take-home Messages
Summary of Results

Feedback from the Advisors demonstrate that in addition to knowing important functions of their role of advisors, they are comfortable bringing issues and challenges in the open forum of the group.

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