Although medical students' use of portfolios has been studied from many angles, little is known about their motivations.
This article explores medical students' motives for voluntarily compiling a learning portfolio that widely exceeded the assignments.
Content analysis was performed on 22 (8%; n = 22/269) extensive portfolios, followed by a semi-structured interview with 11 medical students. Building on the theoretical work of Simons et al. (2004), interpretative analysis was used to reconstruct and understand the medical students' motives for the effort they put into the portfolios.
Compiling an elaborate portfolio is mainly instigated by a personal instrumentality (internally regulated instrumental motivation). These medical students reflected on what they considered important and useful. The portfolio was a tool to achieve self-set goals, yet the specific goals turned out to be very different among the students, reflecting their particular needs and experiences during clerkship.
Motivation theory shows that students who are internally regulated use more deep-level learning strategies and perform better. Internally regulated motivation mainly occurs when students use the portfolio to achieve their self-set goals. The formal portfolio assignments, enforced by the medical school, were more related with externally regulated motivation.