Professor receives teaching award for having students write Wikipedia

Dr. Kathleen Sheppard has been teaching her students how to edit Wikipedia as an assignment since 2017, with the support of our Wikipedia Student Program technology and staff. She has found that the “real-world” implications of the assignment inspire her students to work harder and better.

“Students, and in my experience especially the non-humanities engineering majors, think that the reason for writing in many classes—for the professor to see, grade, and stuff in a file to be forever lost to the void—is a waste of time. However, I drove home the point that writing for Wikipedia is a real transaction between the student and the real-world reader,” she wrote in a reflection on our blog early last year.

Now, not only have Dr. Sheppard’s students found value in the Wikipedia assignment, so has her institution. Dr. Sheppard was awarded the Faculty Experiential Learning Award at Missouri University of Science and Technology this year. As the announcement states,

In 2017, Sheppard, with the support of the Wikipedia Education Foundation, introduced a semester-long assignment in her History of Science in Latin America course to promote student engagement and support student learning. Pairs of students selected an article related to science and Latin America on Wikipedia to edit. They analyzed the article for content gaps, did research, and wrote additional text that was then peer-reviewed. Using critical thinking, research, writing, and editing skills and their own knowledge from STEM fields, the students wrote for a public audience within the standards of scholarly publication. By the end of the first semester, the 26 students in the class added 28,300 words to Wikipedia in 11 different articles ranging from Aztec society to Spanish Missions in the Americas. Their edited articles have been viewed close to one million times.

“As with every new classroom tool, we must ask ourselves how students will engage with it and how the tool will help them thrive,” says Dr. Sheppard. “With the resources developed by Wiki Education, students gained in depth understanding of how Wikipedia works and they learned the writing process—from beginning to end—and they had fun doing it.”

Congratulations, Dr. Sheppard!

If you’re interested in incorporating a Wikipedia editing assignment into your course, visit for all you need to get started or reach out to with questions.

Image: All rights belong to Dr. Kathleen Sheppard.


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