Competence Development and Portfolios: Promoting Reflection through Peer Review.

David John Nicol, Anna Serbati, Matteo Tracchi


Portfolios are widely used in higher education to support students' competence development, especially in professional disciplines.  A claimed strength is that by actively engaging in portfolio construction, and in reflecting on and assessing their current competences and future development, students will grow as self-regulating professionals. However, researchers argue that students require coaches to support their reflections. Yet coaching is time-consuming, and research shows that it often undermines the very reflective processes that it is meant to help develop. This article investigates peer review as an alternative approach to supporting reflection.  Education students identified three competences and justified and evidenced them in a portfolio. They then reviewed the competence claims of peers and received feedback on their own claims from peers. Findings showed that both reviewing and receipt prompted deep reflective thinking as evidenced by changes in the students’ portfolios. The discussion focuses on the value of peer review in promoting reflection, on ways of extending this method, and on its relationship to coaching practices.


Competence, coaching, internal feedback, portfolios, peer review, reflection.

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