Debating Assessment

Yesterday, my students didn’t do their homework. All of them. None of it. Many did work in class on the wiki, and felt that their homework was done.

Today, we talked about time. I talked a little about Malcolm Gladwell, and his 10,000 hours estimate. I pointed out that the standard at our school is that they’re supposed to spend about 75 minutes a day on the study of history — 45 minutes in class, and 30 minutes on homework.

They appeared to get it.

So, they designed the assessment for themselves. Each night for homework, they are to go to the wiki, and…

  • Choose a subject relevant to the day’s overall topic.
  • Add a photo to the wiki, or a link to a video.
  • Read for 10-15 minutes on that subject
  • Write for 10-15 minutes on that subject
  • Connect your own writing to someone else’s
  • Link your writing with your reading (attribution/credit)
  • Comment on someone else’s writing/reading

All of that is worth a 10-point evening assignment.  It’s always over-and-above what we do in class.  The requirements are going to go up on the wiki, so that as they find out how easy or hard it is to keep up with it, we can edit it and fuss with it.

But it seems like a reasonable assignment.  They felt that it was within their capabilities, and I feel like it sets an acceptable standard, at least to begin.  Moreover, it’s concrete.  Many of them are children with learning difficulties; but it’s easy to time yourself to see whether you’re writing for 15 minutes or not; it’s easy to see whether you’ve connected to what you read, and to what others wrote.

And they designed the assessment.  Can they follow it? Time will tell, but it’s a good start.


  1. It’s a great question. A lot of kids at my school actually have difficulty accessing the internet from their particular dormitory.

    One of our solutions is that now, I post both PDFs of the primary source documents, and the wiki-fied text, so that they can either download a static copy, or they can engage with the text online.

    As an added bonus, a student can always check the wikified copy against the original standard copy, and have a sense of what changes have been made.

  2. This is great, authentic, and engaged learning. One question, how should we handle students that don’t have internet access at home? I know that is a minority group in our community, but I have to address it.

  3. Sounds very reasonable and inspires me to use something similar myself. I’ve just introduced some of my students to what I call a Moodl “online classroom” with a course wiki at the heart of it.

    This seems a good approach for making the wiki the centre of class work.

    Thanks for sharing.

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