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What About A Wiki - A Web 2 Approach To Assessments In Science
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Authentic assessments are an important component of our teaching programs. Ensuring students have experiences which both challenge them and provide opportunities for creativity and personal expression are not easy to construct (or mark for that matter). If we are going to continue our quest for a truly integrated curriculum, then our assessments need to overlap with as many other curriculum areas as possible. Providing students with the opportunity to complete a single task which demonstrates skills across sveral domains in surely a worthy goal.

The availability of Web 2.0 tools provides flexibility and accountability in group work. Blogs, podcasts, social networking and wikis all provide interactive ways of creating and sharing information. They also have in-built tracking devices. They allow teachers to monitor who is accessing the material and when. So perhaps this can provide an opportunity for a more authentic group task.

The main problem with group tasks is working out the proportional contributions of each of the members. Too often the student most concerned about the final result is the one who completes the lion's share of the work. Now as with any task, the point of the assessment is critical to how concerned you are about this.

Is the point of the task to cover content?

Is the point of the task to build enmity between different students?

Is the point of the task to create a spirit of collaboration and an understanding of the value of different individual ideas and experiences?

Too often teachers get bogged down with marks. The public reason is because students don't put the same effort into a task if it 'isn't worth something' towards their final grade. Somewhere along the line we have lost the 'learning for the joy of learning' approach that encourages students to do something because it's fun and they may discover something they didn't know at the end of it all.

So the next time you are thinking about a group task, why not flick through the web 2.0 technology in science catalogue and take a closer look at wikis?

You can set up a wiki at several sites on the web, mostly for free. There are educational products which are not only free but teacher regulated so you can decide what is published to the wiki and who can view the content.

Next, you can set different topics for the different groups. Each group can have their own wiki page and can design it the way they want. Each group will need to populate it with information: text and images which they choose. Each member has a login (eg email address) so the teacher can track when the work is being done and by whom.

Such a task can be used to teach a particular unit of work. This helps students organise themselves for exam preparation and shows them a method of summarising and note taking. It also ensures information will always be there for them should they wish to return to the site later.

As an assessment tool, you can add certain parameters such as minimum number of posts per member, minimum number of posts per week (for a 4 week project) and design a rubric based on appearance, collaboration, creativity, etc.

Wikis are just one example of how science educators can use web 2.0 for teaching and learning. So why not consider using a wiki next time you set your students a group project?

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