In the AdvanceHE Patchwork Assessment Guide the authors start by providing practitioners with a working definition. They use Richard Winter’s 2013 explanation as a starting point but explain that developments mean that the patchworks now may comprise of the text but also that “some forms of the patchwork process may be used without text, i.e. in the visual or performing arts”. The rich illustrative case studies provided in the guide show that the assessment form has really come in to its own in the last few years, and Academic Integrity challenges including Artificial Intelligence will only secure the place of this type of personalised and continuous assessment approach.
“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’.”
In the following video case study (17 minutes 39 seconds) Professor of educational assessment in UCL’s Institute of Education Mary Richardson talks about patchwork text assessment on her module CPAS0094: International Perspectives on Educational Reform in Curriculum and Assessment..
What we did and why
The CPAS0094: International Perspectives on Educational Reform in Curriculum and Assessment module looks at contemporary changes in educational settings. Dr Mary Richardson and the module team have designed it to be responsive to global changes in education with a practical assessment that involves writing a policy review of a reform. Students are are given a fair amount of flexibility in their assessment and allowed to cover any country and any reform in relation to educational assessment or curriculum. They chose their reform by week three of the module and then they begin a process of patchwork text assessment by weeks four and five of the module. Short drafts (or patches) are submitted by Moodle forum and are given early feedback by staff and by fellow students.
This approach is particularly good for students who are under confident or anxious about writing. Not only are they getting early feedback but they are also supporting one another and learning from one another as they read one another’s pieces of work. Students engage in the assessment process and consider about what good feedback is. During the term the students receive three pieces of feedback on particular parts of the report (patches). This feedback is specific to the patches, students are allowed to submit a final draft later on and students do not receive feedback on the previous patchwork areas. As Mary explains: “The rule with patchwork is I don’t mark on any draft of anybody’s work those sections which they had the chance earlier on to patch and submit during the course. We say to students, if you’re not willing to engage with the patching, that’s fine but remember, you will get no feedback on about half of your draft assignment because that s where staff feel the weight of workload is – reading full drafts, giving feedback on it.”
Patchwork submission is not compulsory on the module but Mary shows them evidence from past years of the grading – students who participate tend to do better.
What we’ve found over the last five years of doing this is that students become well attuned into what makes good feedback for them and how they can actually support one another.
By the end they’ve become a very close knit community because they have to be open with one another and they have to have these discussions.
This year Mary has also talked to the students about AI and Large Language Models like Chat-GPT and Bard. She has worked with the students to interrogate the tools about the reforms they are considering and has integrated this as an activity to look at the structure of the way in which AI answers questions. The students have understood that these tools can do a really good job of certain things, but using them in isolation will never be as good as someone who’s really properly engaged.The students are generally unlikely to plagiarise because they have to write like their own justification for much of their writing.
There may be some people who disagree with this process and say that it’s not up to us to do sessions like this in teaching time. As an assessment expert, I fundamentally disagree with that because assessment isn’t the bolt on at the end. It’s part of how we learn and if we actually embed it into the process, into our teaching on a regular basis, it’s actually easier for us at the end.
You get better quality work from the students overall because they really understand what they’re doing.
Mary is keen to learn from each year of running the assessment and reflect on the approach. She would like to understand more about why some people do not engage in patchwork assessment, often it may relate to confidence, thought sometimes connects to time management.
Further reading on patchwork assessment
- Winter, R. (2003) Contextualizing the Patchwork Text: addressing problems of coursework assessment in higher education. Innovations in Education and Teaching International 40 (2):
- AHE Patchwork assessment practice guide: https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/knowledge-hub/patchwork-assessment-practice-guide
- Designing effective online assessment (contains section on patchwork assessment): https://www.ucl.ac.uk/teaching-learning/assessment-resources/designing-effective-online-assessment