This week Sarah King introduces patchwork assessment.

Richard Winter describes a patchwork text approach as follows:

“The essence of a patchwork is that it consists of a variety of small sections, each of which is complete in itself, and that the overall unity of these component sections, although planned in advance, is finalized retrospectively, when they are ‘stitched together’.” (Winter, 2003)

Key principles of this method of assessment, according to Winter are that:

  • It is gradually assembled during the course of a phase of teaching.
  • It consists of a sequence of fairly short pieces of writing, designed to be as varied as possible and to cover educational objectives.
  • Each short piece is shared within a small group of students as part of teaching-learning process.
  • At the end a reflexive commentary is added to the short pieces which students may also revise and edit.

Key to the final, summative, piece of work is that, by the end, it is not simply a collection of random artefacts but that when “stitched” together it becomes a cohesive whole. On the Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education at Birmingham, for example, the final narratives produced reflect on our participants’ development as teacher practitioners within a higher education setting.

This approach to assessment embeds many aspects of good assessment and feedback practice identified in the literature.  It requires active engagement of students and it embeds approaches to feedback that support a dialogue – between teacher and student, and student and student. It encourages peer and self-assessment and it also treats assessment as a cumulative set of learning opportunities that can occur throughout a module rather than the more traditional end of module assessment.

As approaches to patchwork assessment have developed, the idea of patchwork “text” has evolved to include many different types of formative patches – many using digital tools. Even text can be developed to include short reports, analysis or less formal blogs or reviews.

The resources provided here include Richard Winter’s paper from 2003 and a more recent HEA Practice Guide that provides some principles for adopting this form of assessment together with some very short case studies and further reading.

Further Reading

Richard Winter (2003) Contextualising the Patchwork Text: addressing problems of coursework assessment in higher education, Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 40 (2), 112-122.

Stella Jones-Devitt, Megan Lawton, Wendy Mayne (2016) HEA Patchwork Assessment Practice Guide. Available from: