1.6 Patchwork ‘Media’

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Introduction

Based on the Ultraversity Project, this collection of patterns identifies the key innovations developed to teach an undergraduate programme of some 300 student researchers, supported entirely online and having collaboration between learners as a central component.

The Essence of the Problem

Adapting Richard Winter’s Patchwork Text approach to assessment for use in an online community of inquiry taking advantage of creative learning technologies.

The Problem in Detail

The problem with assessment:
“It’s time we found an alternative to the student essay. For tutors across the country, it’s marking time again and, reading essays, we realise that many of our students have yet again taken refuge in “surface learning”. Failing to assimilate the significance of our courses into their understandings they produce instead what they think the tutor wants; a despairing and deceptive ritual, a superficial imitation of the outward form of learning, rather than the real thing.” (Winter 2003) For a fuller explanation read An Alternative to the Essay.

Winter’s solution:
To introduce an approach that required creative imagination in formal assessment in universities including story-writing and reflective writing.  His patchwork text approach requires different forms of writing to be shaped, fashioned and assembled in order to explore the relationships between various perspectives. The resulting pieces of work are then shared among learners, discussed and interpreted in different ways, then stitched together, by a reflective commentary to form the final assessment product.  This commentary, identifies learning in relation to the module learning outcomes including meta level reflections.
Our problem:
To re-contextualise Winter’s solution for the online environment; requiring students to embrace the creative potential of digital technologies, transforming the patchwork text approach into one of ‘patchwork media’.

The Solution

In line with Patchwork Text, Patchwork Media requires:
1. Individual learning activities require the student researcher to undertake some creative authoring using different media and genre (poetry, play, about an issue or an opportunity;
2. Student researchers are required to explore an alternative literacy by using creative technologies that enable new perspectives and insights without the artificial constraints of academic voice;
3. The authored pieces are shared within the learning set for critical feedback through asynchronous and synchronous discussions. This helps the author clarify their own understanding and clarify their communication of it;
4. The author reflects and amends the patches as appropriate ensuring they attain an academic literacy;
5. The last activity requires the student researcher to identify their learning throughout the process and relate it to module learning outcomes including meta level reflections.

Reflections on Use

This has proved to be a good way of linking module learning outcomes, to authentic work-focused leaning activities.  We agree with Winter’s suggestion that the approach is particularly valuable for students with little experience of higher education or of writing with an academic voice.  In our experience, the use of alternative academic literacy aids the transition towards writing with an academic voice.  The emphasis on articulating meta-level learning through the retrospective commentary deepens learning.  The use of new media, although valuable for some, can be time consuming for student researchers to create and for assessment.

Related patterns

1.1 Organise learning places
1.2 Team Teaching
1.3 Exhibition for Dissertation
1.4 Workplace advocate
1.5 Action Learning Set
1.6 Patchwork ‘Media’
1.7 Personalised Learning Contract
1.8 The ‘Hotseat’ expert guest
1.9 Nurture Online Community of Inquiry

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