wikipedia as a midterm?

November 3, 2007

Assessment is an important part of instruction and the differentiation between formative and summative assessment is substantial. Formative occurs in classes to give us guideposts of where we need to be either as instructors or students. Summative assessmnt allows us to look at the course as a whole and see where we have been and how far the class has progressed.

One of the more traditional methods of summative assessment is the age old term paper project. As students almost all of us have had to endure a term paper project. The problem with term papers is that they do little to stimulate student learning or to add to a larger body of knowledge.

The instructor in this article decided that instead of requiring her students to write a research paper that they could instead write an entry to wikipedia. The students went on their merry way writing their assigned entries but they soon ran into a few problems.

The students quickly discovered that they were treading in a strange environment with specific rules. These college students found that the areas that they were writing in were already populated and moderated by knowledgeable individuals  and any incorrect statement was soon critiqued. The students also received a lesson on proper citation, if they did not properly cite a source or they used a source that was questionable the wikipedia community soon corrected them.

But did learning take place and how did the quality of the learning community compare to composing a term paper that most classes require?

I would argue that more learning  occurred in a group of  students writing a wikipedia article versus the term paper. I would also venture that the students learned a more in depth understanding of the relationships of different aspects of a subject. For example if you ask grad students in a science class to edit a wikipedia article they would need to have an in depth understanding of the subject to write new meaningful information .

Maybe some day wikipedia will be the new term paper?


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