‘Patchwork Text’ is a concept conceived by Richard Winter while Professor of Education at Anglia Ruskin. Winter’s (1999) patchwork text approach allows different forms of writing to be assembled in order to discover the associations between various perspectives. The collected pieces of work are then shared among learners, discussed and interpreted in different ways, then stitched together, accompanied by a vital reflective and retrospective commentary, to collectively form the assessment piece. Winter’s approach was adapted for the online environment by the course team and extended beyond text to encompass different media as well, enabling students to embrace the creative potential of online technologies, and transforming the patchwork text approach into one of ‘patchwork media’ (McGuire et al, 2006).
Critically the retrospective commentary was seen as a vehicle for reflection; reflection on what has been learnt, how it has been learnt and what strategies could be employed to develop learning in future. The patchwork approach puts the individual into the learning process rather than the content. The retrospective commentary or ‘stitching’ is a place where it is appropriate, legitimate and customary to explore the experience of learning. Legitimacy here is particularly important since many of the learners come with experiences of formal learning where perhaps exploring weaknesses is not ingrained.
Through dialogue with the undergraduates on the BA LTR, the patchwork approach needed to be clearly explained, discussed and conceptually mapped, if learners were to benefit from the process, rather than to face confusion. Where researchers expressed a lack of understanding about the process their appreciation of its benefit was much less, reinforcing the need to be explicit about the purpose of this approach to the learners undertaking it.