[34] Reflections on Using Wikis: Gimmick or Innovative Assessment?



Reflections on Using Wikis: Gimmick or Innovative Assessment?

Author (s)

Alexia Bowler Tutor
College of Arts and Humanities


How do I develop creative and innovative assessments that inspire my students to learn, to research and to be co-creators of knowledge? Will my students engage and invest in the task set? How can I be sure of an authentic assessment rather than a gimmick in the use of my ‘innovative’ task (in this case a Wiki)? These are the questions I asked myself as I started to develop my teaching and assessment practice.

This lightning talk will explain and discuss the uses to which the Wiki format has been put in my teaching. Originally inspired by my work on the Part-Time Degree in Humanities with the Department for Adult Continuing Education (DACE/COAH), it is now also an assessment type used on my first year ‘History of English Language’ module within Applied Linguistics (COAH).

I developed this assessment form because I was concerned about supporting students from ‘non-traditional’ academic backgrounds by encouraging them to bring their many skills and experiences into the classroom situation and also assist them in their working lives (e.g. using IT, understanding copyright, shorter writing tasks and Internet use, as well as academic content). I considered that, while the traditional essay and exam format often seemed a ‘preferred’ mode in Higher Education, it didn’t speak to the topic I was teaching at that time (Adaptation Studies). Moreover, it didn’t allow students, who were less confident in expressing themselves in what they felt at times was academic ‘jargon’ to demonstrate their actual knowledge and understanding to their full potential. Similarly, in doing a degree over six years, I intuited that it might also enliven what might be considered by some to be a long time continually writing essays. With eternal questions revolving around retention, acquiring skills and accessibility for a diverse set of learners, I was keen to trial a new form of assessment to assist with this and avoid alienation and disengagement.

In the full-time setting, however, it is not a compulsory element but a choice between a traditional essay and the Wiki format. What has come to light in the three years of using this assessment format will be the topic of this lightning talk as I consider how impactful or not these type of assessments are for our students in different contexts.


Session Outline

– The session will be interesting to those thinking about using Wikis for assessment. It would be interesting to those who teach both in the part-time or Adult Education sector or in full-time HE institutions (not least in being able to compare experiences of both settings).

-The talk will indicate the logistics and other concerns in undertaking such an assessment, making a judgement on effort versus eventual pay-off.

– The talk will then share examples of (anonymised) Wiki data and qualitative feedback from students on the assessment.

– The talk will end by evaluating personal experience of development of this kind of assessment, considering speculative questions considering future usage of such a format (formative/summative/blended learning tool)

Key Words

Wikis, Authentic Assessment, knowledge co-creation

Key Messages

– Assessment Innovation needs to be developed in context (of the topic/module and learning outcomes)

– Assessments may need to be adapted to learner groups in order to engage (full/part-time learners, individual/group wikis, training needs and learning environment/accessibility)

– Assessments can be inspirational for both learner and assessor (development of one’s practice while developing co-creativity and opportunities for learning).



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