Wikilang : Writing Improves Knowledge In Languages

Wikilang : Writing Improves Knowledge In Languages.
Using Wiki technology to increase motivation, confidence and
performance through collaborative learning.
Project Lead
Janette Bradley, Principal Lecturer and Subject Leader, Languages
To link more explicitly the module’s learning outcomes for writing skills : ‘to construct
written responses in French within the framework of the vocabulary and structures
studied’ with the transferable skills outlined on the DMD : ‘to work independently and cooperatively in pairs and groups; to manage their time effectively; to manage and interpret
electronic information and use it effectively both as a means of communication and as an
aid to learning;’
To complete the action point carried forward from the Languages action plan for 2007/8
to improve students’ writing skills;
To formalise and recognise students’ contributions and independent study through the
assessment process;
To provide an interactional dimension currently absent from the written assessment;
To change from the current pattern of one summative test @ 100% to one collaboratively
produced wiki text @ 40% plus one individually completed on-line summative test @
To promote the following strategic objectives articulated in the University’s Strategic Plan
and Learning and Teaching Strategy :
 to provide students with programmes and learning opportunities that will develop
academic knowledge and the innovative, creative and transferable skills which will
enhance their employability in the United Kingdom and elsewhere;
 to use new technologies to enhance student learning opportunities and to promote
flexibility in the delivery of the curriculum.
Main programme of work
From the 24 students enrolled on the jointly-taught French modules 1HUM0158 and
2HUM0302 (level 1 post-GCSE entry & level 2 Beginners), six StudyNet ‘writing’ groups of
four randomly selected students were set up and a group leader nominated. A wiki
‘package’ of 3 collaborative wikis was to be completed at the rate of one every 3 weeks
throughout semesters A and B. The wiki topics were mapped against the module learning
outcomes and detailed assessment criteria were devised. Students were given guidelines
about appropriate use of the discussion forum during the writing process and indications
about the tutor’s correction procedures and frequency of intervention. The tutor monitored
progress weekly via the discussion forum and the wiki page, suggesting amendments,
further references and giving guidance. Students edited each wiki to produce a final version
for assessment by a deadline. Each wiki was then corrected by the tutor for major errors and
circulated to the writing group before the next wiki was begun.
Key outcomes achieved
With very few exceptions, students took their responsibility for learning seriously and were
committed to producing high quality written work. There was a noticeable improvement in
their understanding of tenses and written accuracy. Many showed evidence of research
skills and used a rich variety of topic vocabulary and complex phrases. Students with
differing levels of competence in French upon entry worked together, learning from each
other and ‘teaching’ about the language via the discussion forum. The average grade for the
writing skill increased to C1 (compared with an average of C2 for previous cohorts). There
was a perceptible improvement in students’ confidence, not only when writing in French but
particularly when speaking French in class.
Particularly successful methods/activities/discoveries
The constant on-line dialogue about language learning between students and between tutor
and students lead to a gradual shift in relationships as the year progressed. New on-line
and face-to-face friendship groups were formed between first and second year students and
most noticeably, the relationship between tutor and students became one of partnership and
‘joint ownership’ of the subject rather than one of teacher/learner. Students began to use
French more spontaneously in class and the improvement in their oral performance was
reflected in the average grade of B3/B2 compared with the average C1 grade of previous
cohorts. By the end of semester B, some students were working at a level more
commensurate with the performance of students in year 2 or 3. The External Examiner for
French commented on : ‘some excellent work amongst this group of students. I was very
impressed how much French some students know at that level and how confident they are in
speaking and writing. Bravo!’
Any problems encountered and how these were overcome
Students were resistant to the suggestion of ‘penalising’ reluctant contributors by deducting
marks for individuals from the shared group mark. In semester B therefore, individuals within
each group were allocated a mark according to their level of participation to counter feelings
of unfairness.
On the Languages programme, all definitive module documents have been amended to
include provision for wikis as part of the assessment for 2009/10. Future collaborative
sessions are planned to explore learning and teaching methodology in the School of
Humanities and across the Faculty and colleagues in the School of Education are already
working on ways to incorporate wikis into students’ work as a result of this project.
The aims of the project have been fully achieved. Students have learned to review and
reflect upon their subject knowledge while developing collaborative and team-working
strategies towards a common goal. Feedback from the students has similarly been very
positive : ‘we all learn from each other; it has improved our team working skills; it made me
confident enough to put my work on- line; because it is group work it makes me want to do it
Following discussion with students at the start of the project it was agreed that 3 individually
produced writing tasks should be assessed alongside the wikis to retain a non-collaborative
element. The assessment weightings were therefore revised as follows :
Package of 3 wikis = 15% of allocation for written assessment
Package of 3 independent tasks = 15 % of allocation for written assessment
Summative writing test = 70 % of allocation for written assessment
The project was presented at the Annual Learning and Teaching conference, May 2009; to
Languages colleagues at the Languages staff development day, July 2009 and at the School
of Education’s Interface session, July 2009.