Critical issues presentations/Wikipedia as a driver for change in the classroom: Five principles for robust assignment design

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Submission no. 87
Title of the submission

Wikipedia as a driver for change in the classroom: Five principles for robust assignment design

Author of the submission
  • Rebecca Johinke
Country of origin




  • education
  • learning-orientated assessment
  • assessment design
  • student engagement

Scholarship about student engagement and retention in higher education institutions increasingly stresses that ‘authentic’ well-designed assessment tasks, with real-world relevance, followed up with timely, accessible, legible and constructive feedback is the key to engaging and retaining students (Bols & Wicklow, 2013). It is no longer satisfactory pedagogical practice to set essays and exams as the default assessment items when students often cannot see the real world relevance of those tasks. When students can see the value in the task then they are far more likely to take a deep rather than surface approach to their learning and plagiarism is less prevalent (Ramsden 1992, Biggs 1987 & 1993, and Entwistle 1981). Increasingly, students are urged to learn from each other and to access and create networks (connectivism theory) rather than relying solely on the teacher for instruction and feedback (Siemens 2008). Moreover, classroom instructors have often been teaching for many years and so have little perceived ‘real world’ experience or expertise in industries that students see themselves working in like information technology, ‘traditional’ media (print, radio, television), public relations (especially social media and advertising or marketing), and start-ups. As many educators are now discovering, this is where offering assignments with a focus on Wikipedia can be such a powerful teaching tool as students appreciate the interaction and validation from citizens outside of the university community who wield enormous power in the knowledge economy (Di Lauro & Shetler, 2013; Caple & Bogle, 2011; Morris 2013).

This paper employs scholarship by top international scholars working on higher education assessment and feedback like Paul Ramsden, John Biggs, David Boud, and David Carless. As they argue, and as every instructor soon finds out, assessment is students’ number one priority because it tells students what is valued, or what Synder calls, the ‘hidden curriculum’ (Carless 2015, 9-10). Boud argues that assessment must perform a double duty in that it must test students’ comprehension and engagement with course materials while at the same time providing skills and knowledge that will have value not only in their future studies but in life outside of the academy (Boud 2000, 16).

This paper examines the keys to a successful Wiki assignment design by discussing what David Carless (2015, 18-22) calls the five key challenges for effective assessment:

1. Fairness

2. Cheating and plagiarism

3. Assessment across disciplines

4. Teachers’ conceptions of assessment

5. Assessment literacy

It will be argued that these five elements should form the foundation of Wikipedia-based assignments.

The target for this presentation is delegates who are interested in Education and the topic is assessment design and Wikipedia use in the classroom. The purpose is to encourage more delegates to employ Wikipedia as part of their assessment regimes and to offer a model of best practice in assessment design. This paper draws on the presenter’s recent classroom experience and on her expertise on teaching and learning pedagogy and higher education research.


Not accepted