The metaphor of a patchwork refers to the idea that a variety of assessment pieces (patches), which individually are complete in themselves, are stitched together into something new (a patchwork). It is a type of portfolio assessment but is distinct because the patchwork as a whole, which includes a reflective, integrative, summative ‘stitching’ section, is more than the sum of the individual parts. Alternative names for this assessment approach include: on-going narrative, evidenced story or collage of incidents. This assessment approach can include formative and summative elements. It also enables pivotal learning moments to be identified and consolidated.
What can the ‘method’ assess? What can it not assess?
While a diverse range of subjects might adopt patchwork assessments the importance of critical reflection, particularly in the final ‘stitching’ of the individual elements, means that subjects where students need to integrate their experiences with theory might find patchwork assessment particularly useful. Furthermore, the importance of pivotal learning moments in patchwork assessment mean that it is a particularly useful way of capturing learning over time in work-based situations or on placements. It may not be appropriate for highly conceptual subjects unless there is a need to reflect on how conceptual learning is being used and applied.
It would be important to consider the number of assessment pieces that would form the patchwork. Consideration of the balance between formative and summative assessment is necessary. One possible model is that each patch is assessed formatively by self and/or peers and is compulsory; the summative element would then be how the individual elements are ‘stitched’, possibly through a critical, reflective and consolidating piece of writing. A further consideration is how the individual elements are identified; one approach would be that students select these themselves from a wider pool of material. In this case the reasons for the selection of the patches might offer an insight into students’ thinking. The modality of the elements would also need to be considered: written, pictorial, video, audio, presentation are all possible. The extent to which students have choice about the modality will need to be decided during module design, however, this does not need to be consistent across the whole patchwork – for example the students may have choice about the individual elements but are required to submit a written summative reflective text to consolidate the individual elements. The curation of the individual elements needs consideration and perhaps a technological solution such as Moodle or MyPortfolio would allow the small sections to be built up over time and be available for consideration by tutors or peers.
Individual patchworks might be developed for learning and assessment. However, it would also be possible for a group to work together, perhaps with each person from the group contributing a single patch and then each individual produces a unique and consolidating ‘stitching’ making use of the various group contributions.
Benefits/What is it good for
It can be hard for students to see a programme or a module as a whole entity. Their experience might be that the various parts feel separate and lack coherence. Patchwork assessment have the potential to provide an opportunity for student to reflect on the individual parts and consolidate their learning through the process of ‘stitching’ together the different elements. The patchwork approach might be combined with other methods which would allow learning over time to be observed, such as blogs or on line fora posts.
- Challenges of design, implementation and student experience: A challenge in designing a patchwork assessment is to facilitate assessment products which demonstrate thinking and reasoning in line with the learning outcomes. The learning outcomes are likely to include higher order Bloom’s type statements such as evaluate or critique. In planning for the assessment careful thought will need to be given to how to help students demonstrate this higher order thinking. It would be possible, for example, for students spending a great deal of time on developing a creative and interesting video or pictorial patch which was mainly descriptive.
- Manageability: Patchwork assessment, for some departments, might be a significant departure from current practice. The advice would be to start small and then build on the approach.
Assessing a patchwork text
Constructive alignment of the learning outcomes and the assessment through the patchwork approach is possible with careful design of the assignment brief. Consideration of how marks will be awarded across the whole patchwork is important at the design stage. Different models for assessing the patchwork against the intended learning outcomes could be adopted including:
- Each small section being assessed formatively by self-assessment, peer assessment or tutor assessment with the final reflective analysis accounting for 100% of the summative assessment.
- Particular learning outcomes could be associated with individual patches, with the reflective analysis, or with the work as a whole.
- Each of the small patches could contribute to the overall assessment mark in one of the following ways: choosing the best patches (and so the best mark overall), averaging over the submitted patches or providing a mark holistically across the whole patchwork.
Student experience The potential for diversity and inclusivity in the patchwork assessment depends largely on the component parts of the patchwork. Offering students choices about the modality of the individual components could potentially facilitate an approach to assessment that would meet the needs of all students.
- The focus on individual experiences of learning and individual choices mean that it would be very difficult for different students to produce similar work. Even in a situation where a set of ‘patches’ where contributed by individuals in a group the consolidating summary would be a unique interpretation of these materials.
Diversity and inclusion
- Patchwork assessment is potentially highly student centred and typically there will be a range of decisions which student can make. These decision might include: what work to include as patches; the modality their work is presented in; or which learning experiences/pivotal learning moments to focus on in their reflective consolidating summary.