Using learning, using Wikis for writing classes,

Using Wikis to Increase Writing Skills in WritingClasses Sezgin BALLIDAGYildizTechnical [email protected]  Abstract It’san undeniable fact that the majority of the teenagers today are keen ontechnology, and they tend to use it for various purposes. This research attemptedto see how using a wiki page in a writing lesson could affect students’success.

The research lasted for two months. Each week, students handed in anassignment, either as a hard copy or online. Two different instruments wereused to collect the data. First of all, Pre and post questionnaires wereapplied in order to see the student’s attitudes towards the use of internet foreducational purposes specifically for writing lesson and peer edit. Besidesthis, the midterm results of the students, which served as a determiner forsuccess, were analyzed by dependent samples t-test.

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Results showed that therewas not a significant difference in the results of the two groups in terms oftheir grades, however the percentage of the students who thought wiki was avaluable source for a writing class in the pre-questionnaire decreased in thepost-questionnaire.           Keywords; collaborative learning, using Wikis for writingclasses, peer-editing, constructivism 1. IntroductionEffectivewritten communication is fundamental part of learning a foreign language, andit is a key factor in students’ academic development. Learning to write is along-term process and, in order to discover more effective ways to helpstudents to be better writers in a foreign language, quite a lot of researcheshave been implemented on how to make students make more motivated to write.  Developmentsin the writing curriculum during the past two decades have resulted in anincreased emphasis on the process of composing and sharing a message with anaudience, and of learning specific structural skills with this communicativecontext (Bos, 1988). With the increasing trend towards the use of technology ineducation, wiki pages provided a convenient place to hand in writingassignments and sharing them. This paper describes an attempt to see theeffectiveness of using wikis for a writing class in an EFL classroom. 2.

Literature Review Accordingto social constructivism, students learn through collaboration, and peer reviewgives learners the ground to exchange their ideas. The type of approaches topeer review depends on the teachers’ instructions; it might be open-ended,guided or directed (Rieber, 2006). In an open-ended review, students are seenas experts and teachers offer no or little guidance in how to review theirpeers’ papers. They are assumed to know the assignment requirements. Thisapproach is mainly used in advanced level classes. The other approach, guidedpeer review, as the name suggests, teachers guide reviewers with a list ofgeneral questions to consider while they are reviewing the papers. In the finalapproach, directed peer review, teachers give reviewers a complete checklistcovering all assignment guidelines. This is best when students have limitedexperience in the subject and do not have enough writing skills.

It is alwaysgood to have a checklist because; first, all papers are reviewed with the samecriteria, second, you cannot miss any point, and last, it really helps weaklearners working with strong learners. Thereare different reasons for using peer review in writing classes in literature.Firstly, students like it, 11 out of 12 students in Eschenbach’s class (2001)liked the peer review sessions and they wanted to continue the same application.Students react better to peer comments than they do to teacher comments(Rieber, 2006).

When a teacher reads papers, he comments as “right” or “wrong”.But when a peer reads the paper, he or she mostly comment about how the paperdoes or doesn’t need the assignment guidelines, which leads to an improvementin the papers of both reviewer and reader.  Secondly,students write more carefully when they are communicating with peers and doingbetter because of the peer pressure than when they are evaluated by theirteachers. Students do not want to appear unintelligent to their peers, whenthey know their work will be read and commented on by another student during apeer review, they are successful to produce a more polished draft for review(Rieber 2006). In their research, Plutsky and Wilson (2004) also indicatedstudents became better writers with the help of peer review.  Finally,peer feedback seems to lead a better academic achievement. In his research,Richer(1992) researched how college students benefitted from peer feedback intheir writing classes. The results revealed that better grades were obtainedfrom peer feedback group.

They also showed lower writing anxiety (Stanley,1992) and became to support each other more. Furthermore, one-to-one contextmay also encourage students to ask questions that they might be reluctant toask in larger classes.  Toprevent unevenness, Kerr (1995) suggests multiple reviewers or using anonymouspairs. This way the anxiety level of the students will be relatively lowbecause they don’t know whose papers they are reading. In the literature, onecan conclude that the most important side of having anonymous peer review isthat it provokes more critical feedback because they are relieved from socialpressure. So they will be free of interpersonal factors (Bostock, 2000).

According to Robinson (1999) and MacLeod (1999) anonymity seems to encouragemore critical feedback. There is a nice study by Zhao (1998). In order toexplore the effects of anonymous feedback, Zhao conducted two studies on firstand second year students at a college. They reviewed journals in twoconditions, in the first condition reviewers knew that authors will be giventheir information whereas in the other condition, they were made sure thattheir names will be removed before authors receive their reviews. The resultsindicated that the grades assigned by ones whose names are anonymous to theauthors were more critical than the ones who thought they will be identifiableto the authors. In spite of many benefits of anonymous peer review, it has somedisadvantages too in the literature. According to the research by Kerr (1981) students showed better efforts when they are identified toauthors.

They did not really do their best because they were hiding from thecrowd (Lu and Bol, 2007). Withthe advances in technology over years, teachers and researchers started to makeuse of technology in education too. A wiki is a powerful online writing toolwith revising and editing functions, they are great tools for learners, asBen-Zvi (2007) also states, in that learners can reach the papers fromdifferent locations as long as they can go online. Therefore, it washypothesized that students working on the wiki page would read and respond topapers in a shorter time. In the constructivist approach, students are activelyinvolved in creating knowledge and Holzinger (2008) states that when we createknowledge by editing a web page and this is what the constructivist approachtalks about and Franco (2008) states that wikis enable students to createknowledge in a stimulating and exciting environment. Unlike the classroom, thestudents can enjoy the convenience of their own environment, which reduces the anxietyand stress that they could have in an actual classroom.

Wikis give students afloor to integrate their knowledge and technology and share their ideas withpublic. Once they have posted their work, it will be available to everybody intheir group.    2.Methodology2.

1 Research Question & HypothesisThisresearch is looking for answers to following question;ResearchQuestion: Does using wikis with thehelp of peer feedback in writing classes increase students’ grades?Hypothesis:Using wikis with the help of peer feedback in the writing class will increasestudents’ grades.2.2 Research Context and ParticipantsThisresearch was conducted in a preparatory class at a state university. The mediumof instruction at the university is %30 English. There are total 14 classes inthe department. The classrooms are composed of students with different majors.As the instructor of the writing lesson, the researcher was a participantobserver in the class. The student sample was composed of 24 elementary level students,17 boys and 7 girls aged between 17- 20.

The first languages of all thestudents are Turkish. They studied English for total 25 hours a week, and 5hours of which are devoted to the writing class. The material used for theclassroom is Weaving it Together 1. During one semester, students are expectedto be able to learn how to compose a paragraph.2.3 Data collectionClosedPre-questionnaire and post-questionnaires with multiple choice items wereapplied to see how students thought about peer editing and using a wiki pagefor educational purposes at the outset and the end of the research. Field noteswere taken while the students were on task. Finally, students’ work and thepeers’ comments on the wiki pages were read and given feedback by the teacher.

Inorder to see the progress, two exams, which were seen an indicator of thesuccess, were given to the students.  2.4 ProceduresAtthe beginning of the term, students were informed about the research andvolunteer students who would be handing in and editing online were asked andeight people volunteered. The experiment started on the second week. Duringclassroom time, both group had the same instruction. When they needed to write,the classical group wrote at home and brought their papers into the class.Having been edited by their peers, the papers were collected and given feedbackby the teacher. During peer editing section which lasted about 10 minutes, the onlinegroup were let leave the classroom.

The classical group were observed by theteacher while they were on task. The online group, on the other hand, wereexpected to upload their first drafts online, and those papers were edited bypeers online by following the same peer editing checklists in threads. Then students,after doing any corrections they wanted to do, uploaded the final version ofthe paper. Finally, those papers were given feedback by the teacher on the samewiki page. With both groups, students did not use their actual names on theirpapers or on the wiki page they were using in order to see how anonymity wouldwork within this research setting.  2.

5 AnalysisToanalyze the data, a dependent t-test was used. The results of the students workingonline from the first quiz were compared with the results of the second one tosee how much difference posting homework to a wiki page made on students’learning, and thus on their grades.  ResultsThedata was analyzed by using the StatisticalPackage for the Social Sciences (SPSS) andare presented below.  Table 1: First Midterm Statistics   Mean N Std.

Deviation Std.Error Mean Online Group 11,87 8 2,41 0,85 Classical Group 10,52 17 4,38 1,06    Table 2: Second Midterm Statistics   Mean N Std.Deviation Std.

Error Mean Online Group 11,57 7 2,14 0,81 Classical Group 9,94 18 5,11 1,20  Table1 and Table 2 above shows the students’results from two midterm exams after the research started. As it was shown inthe Table 1 and Table 2, the means for both the online group andthe classical group was lower in the second midterm although there areindividuals who increased their grades in the second midterm.  Table 3: Dependent Samples T-test   t df sig. (2 tailed) Midterm Results 0,513 29,88 0,623  Sig.=0,05 Theresults of the dependent t-test showed that there was not a significantdifference (p= 0,623 > p=0,05) between the exam grades of the two groups.Therefore, the participants did not benefit from using a wiki page to improvetheir writing skills in writing classes.5. Discussion and Conclusions         In this research, the researcher triedto see how effective peer editing with the help of a wiki page is for apreparatory writing class at a state university in Turkey.

In reference to theresearch question, if we look at the results obtained from midterms, it isdifficult to say that posting homework and peer editing online was of asignificant help, as it was thought to be at the beginning of the research. Talkingabout the average, it may not seem that the class advanced so much; however ifwe take individual students into account, we can see that improvement may bemore than 5 points for some students. Just like (Allaei & Connor, 1990)claimed in their paper, there were mixed degrees of success in this research,too. Similar to what they found out in their study, weaker students in thisclassroom had difficulty in spotting the mistakes. Comparingthe first and the second exam results of the students who worked on the wikipage, we cannot talk about an improvement in their overall scores, as can beseen in tables 1 and 2.  Out of 8students; only 2 improved their grades, 2 have shown no difference and 4students received worse grades in the second midterm. This result is actuallyconsistent with the post questionnaire results.

Although %70 of the studentsinitially thought that it was a good idea to hand in assignments online, it wasonly %30 in the post questionnaire. Unlike what Robinson (1999) and Macleod(1999) found out, anonymity did not work in this class since they did not wantto proceed without knowing whose papers they were reading and who was readingtheirs both in the lesson and online.5.1 ImplicationsWetend to think that technology is of great help in education in all cases, anddo our best to integrate it into our classes, yet this research showed that itis not always the case. Unlike what Ben-Zvi (2007) states, students did notenjoy the freedom of being able to reach their papers or read their friendspapers wherever they are.

The results of this research revealed that althoughstudents seemed enthusiastic towards using online sources in their writingclass at first they lost interest and did not benefit from it at the desiredlevel. That’s to say, as long as students are provided with correct instructionand given a change to exchange ideas in the classroom, teachers should not bein search of ways to use technology in their writing classes.  5.2 Limitations and Suggestions for Future ResearchObviouslythis research is limited by its small sample size. Only 24 studentsparticipated in the research, so a larger sample may give better data to relyon. Another limitation of this study is the level of the students who took partin the research. For this study, the participants were chosen from anelementary class, therefore, another study with participants from higher levelsmay reveal different results. In addition to the limitations above, thisresearch was conducted within one classroom composed of two groups; that’s twodifferent applications within one group, which made the online writers thinkthat they were putting more effort than their classmates, so they got bored andlost interest.

Therefore; this research may be repeated with two differentclasses having a different application in each.  References: Allei,S.K. & Connor, U. (1990). Using performative assessment instruments withESL student writers.

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