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Improving Student Learning By Encouraging Reflection Through Class Wikis

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

E-Learning in Chemical Engineering

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.710.1 - 14.710.10



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Paper Authors


David Silverstein University of Kentucky

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David L. Silverstein is the PJC Engineering Professor and Associate Professor of Chemical and Materials Engineering at the University of Kentucky College of Engineering Extended Campus Programs in Paducah. He received his B.S.Ch.E. from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama; his M.S. and Ph.D in Chemical Engineering from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee; and has been a registered P.E. since 2002. Silverstein is the 2004 recipient of the William H. Corcoran Award for the most outstanding paper published in Chemical Engineering Education during 2003, and the 2007 recipient of the Raymond W. Fahien Award for Outstanding Teaching Effectiveness and Educational Scholarship.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Improving Student Learning by Encouraging Reflection through Class Wikis

Abstract A cohort of students enrolled in a chemical engineering was required to contribute to a collaborative reflective document with the objective of more rapidly assimilating new knowledge into the problem solving process. Motivated by prior work in the literature describing the use of portfolios and by the successes of collaborative learning, selected elements of each were tied into a simple project requiring minimal student time to collaboratively develop a reflective learning document using a wiki. A wiki is a web-accessible document that can be edited by multiple users. For this project, students in a material and energy balance course were assigned the weekly task of maintaining a wiki page on the current textbook chapter by entering what they perceived as the most important items learned during class. This was similar to other active learning activities suggested in the literature, but in this case the student contributions were collaborative and archival. Students were encouraged to be complete and accurate with the promise that their entries would be available during an exam. Other wiki pages the students developed included a set of suggestions in preparing for the first exam for future students enrolled in the course. Student assessment suggested that the project was accepted as a valuable part of the course, and instructor assessment indicated that students more rapidly assimilated core concepts into their problem solving repertoire as a result of this activity.


At the end of a lecture there is a tendency for a student to rapidly move as far away from the classroom and the topics discussed as possible. This apparent instinct to flee and thereby free their mental energies from class work discourages reflection on the lecture subject by the student. This tends to reduce retention and absorption of the concepts presented during the class.

One effective means of encouraging reflection as a mode of learning is portfolio development. A portfolio has been defined as “a purposeful collection of student work that exhibits the student’s efforts, progress, and achievements”[1]. Portfolios foster active learning and give the student the perspective needed to ensure that they are progressively learning over time[2]. One of the primary benefits over standard educational practices is that work is placed into context through a reflective process[3]. The downside of portfolios, whether paper-borne or electronic, is that they take significant student time to prepare and manage. McGourty[4] notes that “full portfolios are very labor intensive and are sometimes abandoned due to the work required in assessment, despite the richness of results.” The time element is one area of research suggested in a recent review of using technology in support of collaborative learning[5].

Silverstein, D. (2009, June), Improving Student Learning By Encouraging Reflection Through Class Wikis Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4795

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