Using wiki writing for assessment in a Science subject: A case study

In this assignment, students chose to research a particular drug and sport combination. Throughout the semester, students conducted research into the relationship between the chosen drug and sport, and presented their research in a wiki page. The assignment was worth 40% of the subject mark.

Web 2.0 tool used: Wiki tool in Blackboard

About the subject

The subject was called "Drugs in Sport". It was a fully on-line university-wide elective with no pre-requisites and could be taken by any student (including those outside the university). Content was developed in the discipline of Pharmaceutical Sciences and had a strong evidence-based quality.

The course covered the mechanism of action of drugs used to enhance sports performance; the way the body handles the drugs (metabolism etc); effects of drugs on the cardiovascular and urinary system, respiratory system, skeletal muscle, hormonal systems; as well as brief legal and ethical considerations.

Typically this subject tends to attract students from health and exercise sciences and from various year levels. In this semester there were 50 online students. Most were domestic students from the university. There were a small number of mature age students in the cohort.

The subject was taught by one lecturer and two tutors.

Assignment tasks and timing

In this activity, students had to demonstrate their knowledge about drugs in sport by presenting a critical and detailed evaluation of a single drug (or drug class) in a particular sport.

At the beginning of semester, students were presented with a grid that featured 42 sports (mainly olympic/paralympic but also popular Australian sports such as Australian Football League) and around 70 drugs/drug classes (mainly as identified by the World Antidoping Agency, but also popular permitted drugs such as caffeine). Each student chose a particular sport-drug combination from this grid, and worked on the assignment over the course of the semester, researching the performance effects of the chosen drug and the impact it had had on the selected sport. Students presented their analysis in the wiki.

Each assignment was written progressively in the wiki and students were assessed and given feedback throughout the semester. Students had to address six topics and create six wiki pages in response to those topics. The wikis were assessed progressively, after each new topic was added, every two weeks.

Students were also required to critically evaluate the assignments of other students: each student anonymously reviewed the work of three other students in week 9 of the 12 week semester.

Intended learning outcomes

This assignment related directly to the overall learning outcomes of the course. These were described in the subject outline as follows:
At the end of this course students should be able to:
  • discuss the use in sport of banned substances (or methods) to enhance performance, the pharmacological rationales for their use, potential adverse effects and related ethical issues;
  • describe the pharmacology of the main groups of drugs prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA);
  • review those special drugs which are restricted or permitted in particular situations in sport;
  • describe critically the proposed mechanisms of action and ergogenic value of some dietary supplements and complementary medicines in performance enhancement;
  • describe beneficial and deleterious effects of commonly used medicines on sports performance and mechanisms underlying these effects.

Specific generic capabilities:
  • verbal and visual literacy.
  • critical thinking in evaluation of scientific literature.

Why Web 2.0?

A wiki was chosen for this assignment because it allowed students to include links from their assignment to popular and scientific articles, written and visual. Students were encouraged to read, watch and listen to popular media and scientific literature about drugs in sport; the lecturer believed this would encourage student engagement. This could not be done as effectively as a paper-based assignment. Being online, and in a wiki format, students could learn from their peers as they too developed a wiki on a drug-sport combination. Students formally reviewed each others' wikis. By allowing students to see each other's work there was an incentive for students to keep up with their peers.

Setting up the assignment

Before the assignment began the lecturer developed and set up the wiki. He created a grid on the wiki that listed all the particular drugs and all the sports and developed a template for each page (6 pages in total) of the wiki. Prior to the assignment the lecturer also developed a rigorous assessment rubric to guide students and staff assessors.

Introducing the assignment to students

The assignment was introduced to students at the beginning of semester through the information contained within the Subject Guide. Students also had access to information via the university electives site on the web.

In the Subject Guide students were given the following information about the assignment:

In order to demonstrate mastery of the course, each student is required to write a critical review on the use of a drug (or drug class) in a single sport covering (in particular): pharmacology, potential actions of the drug, evidence for actual effects on performance, adverse effects, drug regulation and classification, detection, and sample manipulation. Medicines which are used for therapeutic reasons but which have advantageous or deleterious effects on performance are also considered.

Supporting students through the assignment

Throughout the semester, feedback was provided in several forms. Tutors gave feedback on the wiki as students developed it.
Formative feedback was provided after each lecture topic was introduced and discussed (every 2 weeks).

In addition students reviewed other students' wikis and provided feedback. Initially students couldn't see other students' entries but as the semester progressed they were required to peer assess other students' contributions, to the wiki pages were made visible to other students.

A rubric was used to guide assessment. Students had access to this rubric and could assess themselves and compare their response to that of the tutor.

The lecturer and tutors responded to ad hoc student queries via email and maintained a course blog to share information with students.

Marking the assignment

The tutors and lecturer provided initial feedback, explaining what was required in the wiki contribution. Student contributions were guided by:

1. detailed instructions on the wiki site;
2. particular instructions on each page template;
3. an exemplar wiki (developed by the lecturer);
4. marking according to a rubric;
5. fortnightly marks and feedback by the lecturer or tutor
6. self assessment (against the rubric) compared with tutor marks
7. opportunity to gain more marks by responding to tutor and peer feedback
8. opportunity on last page of their wiki for each student to record how they responded to feedback

Students were encouraged (and given marks for) use of Web 2.0 functionality: for instance, incorporating audio and video, static images and hyperlinks.

To ensure the marking process was fair and consistent, a firm rubric used at all times. The lecturer moderated each tutor's marking patterns. Tutors assessed different students over the semester and the Blackboard GradeBook was used to support the marking management.

Communicating the results

Marks and feedback were provided at each stage on the student wiki and Blackboard GradeBook tool. Students were given further feedback by email or phone call and occasionally via a face to face meeting. The rubric was used to indicate how the marks were allocated.

Evaluating and improving the assignment

Evidence about how well the assignment had worked was provided via anecdotal student feedback and through the student peer review process. In addition staff reviewed the subject and the assignment at the end of semester.

In a more recent iteration of the assignment, the lecturer decided to allow students to see all other students' assignments from the beginning of semester. This appears to have encouraged all students to contribute at a higher level, rather than facilitating cheating, which the lecturer had feared.
The teaching team has estimated that about 10% of students have complained about the assignment: ” not about the assessment itself but the constancy of the task...every two weeks they are assessed for their wiki work. Some find this hard....particularly if they have chosen an on-line course in the mistaken belief that they can blitz the course a week or so before the exams!"

The lecturer reflected that it was necessary to remind students about the importance of maintaining progress on this assignment, to ensure staff could keep up with the marking. He said he warned students that "if they do not submit on time they start to lose marks, and if they are over a week late they get no marks for that section (page) of their wiki. I keep reminding myself that it is like tutes...if students do not turn up they get no marks for participation. There is a 40% mark for the wiki overall so a student can lose, irretrievably, about 5 marks each time they fail to contribute a section.”

The lecturer noted that the assessment rubric worked well and will be redeveloped for future iterations of the assignment.

The teaching team believed that the online wiki should encourage students to consider visual media (External Representations or ERs) as a key form of expression. Yet, they found that text dominated students' assignments, embellished occasionally with a video clip from the internet or a hyperlink.
Staff will continue to emphasise creation and use of ERs more in the assessment rubric.

Selected documents from this Case Study

A screen shot showing the drugs in sport grid: DrugsInSportGrid.pdf

The assessment rubric used for self-assessment and tutor assessment: Drugs in Sport assessment rubric.pdf

Page source:
Gray, K., Waycott, J., Thompson, C., Clerehan, R., Sheard, J., Hamilton, M., & Richardson, J. (2011) Using Social Web (Web 2.0) Activities for Student Assessment: Resources for University Learning and Teaching. Retrieved from https://web2assessmentresources.wikispaces.com