Documentation Systems for Educators Seeking Academic Promotion in U.S. Medical Schools

Simpson, Deborah PhD; Hafler, Janet EdD; Brown, Diane; Wilkerson, LuAnn EdD

Academic Medicine:
Research Report

Purpose. To explore the state and use of teaching portfolios in promotion and tenure in U.S. medical schools.

Method. A two-phase qualitative study using a Web-based search procedure and telephone interviews was conducted. The first phase assessed the penetration of teaching portfolio-like systems in U.S. medical schools using a keyword search of medical school Web sites. The second phase examined the current use of teaching portfolios in 16 U.S. medical schools that reported their use in a survey in 1992. The individual designated as having primary responsibility for faculty appointments/promotions was contacted to participate in a 30–60 minute interview.

Results. The Phase 1 search of U.S. medical schools’ Web sites revealed that 76 medical schools have Web-based access to information on documenting educational activities for promotion. A total of 16 of 17 medical schools responded to Phase 2. All 16 continued to use a portfolio-like system in 2003. Two documentation categories, honors/awards and philosophy/personal statement regarding education, were included by six more of these schools than used these categories in 1992. Dissemination of work to colleagues is now a key inclusion at 15 of the Phase 2 schools. The most common type of evidence used to document education was learner and/or peer ratings with infrequent use of outcome measures and internal/external review.

Conclusions. The number of medical schools whose promotion packets include portfolio-like documentation associated with a faculty member's excellence in education has increased by more than 400% in just over ten years. Among early-responder schools the types of documentation categories have increased, but students’ ratings of teaching remain the primary evidence used to document the quality or outcomes of the educational efforts reported.

Author Information

Dr. Simpson is associate dean for educational support and evaluation, director, Office of Educational Services, and professor of family and community medicine, and Ms. Brown is educational project analyst, Office of Educational Services, both at the Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; Dr. Hafler is assistant professor of pediatrics, Office of Educational Development, and associate director for faculty development, Harvard Medical School, Boston; and Dr. Wilkerson is senior associate dean for medical education, University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Correspondence and requests for reprints should be addressed to Dr. Simpson, Associate Dean for Educational Support and Evaluation, Director, Office of Educational Services, 8701 Watertown Plank Road, Milwaukee, WI 53226.

For an article on a similar topic, see pp. 729–736.

© 2004 Association of American Medical Colleges