Use of a learning portfolio for continuous professional development: A study of pharmacists in Ontario (Canada)


  • Zubin Austin Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto, 19 Russell Street, Toronto, Ont., Canada, M5S 1A1.
  • Anthony Marini University of Calgary, Calgary, Alta., Canada, T2N 1N4
  • Bernie Desroches Ontario College of Pharmacists, Toronto, Ont., Canada


Learning portfolio, quality assurance, maintenance of competency, continuous professional development


The use of learning portfolios in health professions has been widely described and discussed as an important tool for promoting reflective practice and continuing professional development. Within pharmacy, there have been reports of the use of the learning portfolio in practice and education. The Ontario College of Pharmacists, as part of its maintenance of competency requirements, requires practicing pharmacists to maintain a learning portfolio as a written record of learning activities, resources used and outcomes. For this study, surveys were distributed to 1415 pharmacists in Ontario, Canada (representing approximately 20% of all pharmacists in the province) and data was collected related to use of the learning portfolio in practice. 

In addition, anecdotal feedback was collected and analyzed to identify the value of the portfolio in maintenance of competency activities for pharmacists. Results indicate that initially pharmacistsmay express misunderstanding or misapprehension regarding the role of the learning portfolio and optimal ways of documenting learning in practice. However,with additional support (including the use of facilitated, peer-based discussions), attitudes towards learning portfolios shift towards acceptance and understanding. Quantitative data indicates a wide variation in the number of learning objectives identified per pharmacist per year, the amount of time spent in continuous professional development activities, and the impact of these activities on changing practice. 



Austin, Z., Croteau, D., Marini, A., & Violato, C. (2003).

Continuous professional development: The Ontario experience

in professional self-regulation through quality assurance and

peer review. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 67(2),


Austin, Z., Marini, A., Macleod-Glover, A., & Croteau, D. (2005).

Continuous professional development: A qualitative study of

pharmacists’ attitudes, behaviours, and preferences in Ontario

(Canada). American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 69(1)

article 4.

Boud,D., Keogh, R., &Walker,D. (Eds.) (1985). Reflection: Turning

experience into learning. London: Kogan Page.

Challis, M., Mathers, N. J., Howe, A. C., & Field, N. J. (1997).

Portfolio-based learning: Continuing medical education for

general practitioners — a mid point evaluation. Medical

Education, 31, 22–26.

Dolmans, D., Schmidt, A., van der Beek, J., Beintema, M., &

Gerver, W. J. (1999). Does a student log provide a means to

better structure clinical education? Medical Education, 33,


Epstein, R. M. (1999). Mindful practice. The Journal of the American

Q6 Medical Association, 282, 833–839.

Flannagan, J. C. (1994). The critical incident technique.

Psychological Bulletin, 51, 327–358.

Grant, A., & Dornan, T. L. (2001). What is a learning portfolio?

Diabetic Education, 18, 1–4.

Jolly, B. (1999). Clinical logbooks: Recording clinical experiences

may not be enough. Medical Education, 33, 86–88.

Kelly, D. R., & Murray, T. S. (1999). The development and

evaluation of a personal learning log for senior house officers.

Medical Education, 33, 260–266.

Mezirow, J. (1998). On critical reflection. Adult Education Quarterly,

, 185–198.

Schon, D. A. (1983). The reflective practitioner. New York: Basic


Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning and

identity. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press



Research Article