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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Development of a portfolio of learning for postgraduate family medicine training in South Africa: a Delphi study

Louis Jenkins1*, Bob Mash2 and Anselme Derese3

Author Affiliations

1 University of Stellenbosch, Division of Family Medicine and Primary Care, George Training Complex, George, South Africa

2 University of Stellenbosch, Division of Family Medicine and Primary Care, Tygerberg, South Africa

3 Centre for Education Development, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

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BMC Family Practice 2012, 13:11  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-13-11

Published: 3 March 2012



Within the 52 health districts in South Africa, the family physician is seen as the clinical leader within a multi-professional district health team. Family physicians must be competent to meet 90% of the health needs of the communities in their districts. The eight university departments of Family Medicine have identified five unit standards, broken down into 85 training outcomes, for postgraduate training. The family medicine registrar must prove at the end of training that all the required training outcomes have been attained. District health managers must be assured that the family physician is competent to deliver the expected service. The Colleges of Medicine of South Africa (CMSA) require a portfolio to be submitted as part of the uniform assessment of all registrars applying to write the national fellowship examinations. This study aimed to achieve a consensus on the contents and principles of the first national portfolio for use in family medicine training in South Africa.


A workshop held at the WONCA Africa Regional Conference in 2009 explored the purpose and broad contents of the portfolio. The 85 training outcomes, ideas from the WONCA workshop, the literature, and existing portfolios in the various universities were used to develop a questionnaire that was tested for content validity by a panel of 31 experts in family medicine in South Africa, via the Delphi technique in four rounds. Eighty five content items (national learning outcomes) and 27 principles were tested. Consensus was defined as 70% agreement. For those items that the panel thought should be included, they were also asked how to provide evidence for the specific item in the portfolio, and how to assess that evidence.


Consensus was reached on 61 of the 85 national learning outcomes. The panel recommended that 50 be assessed by the portfolio and 11 should not be. No consensus could be reached on the remaining 24 outcomes and these were also omitted from the portfolio. The panel recommended that various types of evidence be included in the portfolio. The panel supported 26 of the 27 principles, but could not reach consensus on whether the portfolio should reflect on the relationship between the supervisor and registrar.


A portfolio was developed and distributed to the eight departments of Family Medicine in South Africa, and the CMSA, to be further tested in implementation.