Chapter 9: Wiki-workshopping: using Wikispaces for peer writing workshops – The Plugged-In Professor


Wiki-workshopping: using Wikispaces for peer writing workshops

Hans C. Schmidt


This project uses the Wikispaces Web platform to facilitate peer writing workshops. Over the course of the semester, students will post drafts of their papers to Wikispaces. Then, students will use the wiki editing tools to revise and comment on peer drafts. Because Wikispaces tracks all revisions, it is possible to view a revised document and also identify which revisions were made by which students. Ultimately, revised documents can be stored as a Web page, allowing each student to use Wikispaces to create an electronic portfolio of her/his writing from the semester.

Key words

peer editing



writing workshops

Discipline/Academic areas addressed

Applicable to all disciplines incorporating writing and editing, and also useful to disciplines, such as communication and education, which emphasize media literacy

Instructional purpose

Since Moffett and Wagner (1968) first suggested the use of peer writing workshops, such activities have come to be viewed as an established and effective classroom practice (Karegianes et al., 1980; Macrorie, 1976). Such workshops provide students the opportunity to receive suggestions from their peers regarding how to improve the quality of their writing. Additionally, the process of editing a peer’s writing leads to reflection and learning on the part of the student editor. However, such processes can be very time consuming. When conducted as an in-class activity, they can use up valuable instructional time. When conducted outside of class, the logistics of printing and distributing copies of student drafts to other group members can be challenging, and incur additional, burdensome, printing costs for students and faculty.

The use of social media such as Wikispaces solves both of these problems, and offers other benefits as well. First, Wikispaces can be used outside of class, thus freeing up valuable instructional time. Second, it allows for drafts to be electronically shared and edited, thus eliminating the need for excessive printing and providing both environmental and financial benefits. Third, Wikispaces tracks the revisions made to the document, allowing the instructor to view which suggestion and edits were made by which students. This tracking feature provides a helpful summary so that the instructor can easily and accurately gauge student involvement in the editing and revising process. Finally, because this activity involves the use of a new media platform, it also has the added benefit of exposing students to the power of Web 2.0 technologies. As such, while this activity primarily serves the purpose of helping students become better writers, it also helps students to develop basic media literacy competencies which are very important to twenty-first century life (Jenkins, 2006).

Student learning outcomes

1. Students will become familiar with wiki technologies and the Wikispaces Web platform.

2. Students will be able to identify and correct grammatical and mechanical errors in their peers’ essays.

3. Students will be able to identify and correct errors associated with source citation in their peers’ essays.

4. Students will be able to suggest ways to improve the content development, introduction, and conclusion of their peers’ essays.

5. Students will be able to integrate their peers’ suggestions into later drafts of their own writing.

6. Students will be able to create a Web-based writing portfolio.

Prerequisite skills and knowledge

 Internet-browsing skills, such as are possessed by the average college student

 Word-processing skills, also possessed by most

 Familiarity with the conventions of written English.

Step-by-step directions

1. Prior to assigning a new writing assignment, divide students into peer workshop groups. The size of groups can vary, but three individuals is recommended.

2. Spend a class period demonstrating how the peer writing workshop process works, and explaining specific issues that students should address after reading their peers’ papers. Students are instructed to

a. Identify and correct misspelled and improperly used words.

b. Identify and correct grammatical errors.

c. Identify and correct errors associated with source citation.

d. Provide comments regarding the quality of the introduction and conclusion.

e. Provide comments regarding the paper’s content development.

f. Provide summary comments regarding overall impressions of the paper. (Note: The specific issues which students are instructed to address can be adjusted to meet course-specific objectives.)

3. Spend approximately half of a class period demonstrating how to access and use Wikispaces, and teaching students how to post their own paper, and revise and comment on a peer’s paper (see below). While this Web platform is very easy to use, students may be intimidated by the technology and require specific instructions.

a. Directions for students posting their paper to Wikispaces

 Login to Wikispaces.

 Click on “New Wiki”.

 Click on “Edit”.

 Delete the default text on the screen, as you would if editing a document in a word-processing program.

 Paste the text of your paper into the wiki. After you are finished, click “Save”.

b. Directions for students editing a peer’s paper

 Login to Wikispaces.

 From the menu, select the page of the group member whose paper you want to review.

 After opening the appropriate page, you will see the text of your peer’s paper.

 In the menu bar above the text, click on “Edit”. This will provide you an editable version of your peer’s paper.

 Make any corrections that you consider necessary to your peer’s paper, as you would if editing a document in a word-processing program.

 To include comments or suggestions, highlight the word or sentence about which you would like to comment, then click on the “Comment” icon. This will open a new box in which you can type your comment. After you are finished, click “Save” in the comment box.

 After you are finished correcting the paper and providing relevant comments, click “Save” in the menu bar. This will save a revised version of the paper, but mark all changes as highlighted text so that the author can identify areas that you have edited.

 Continue reviewing the papers of other members of your writing workshop group, and save your comments and revisions by the deadline.

c. Directions for students reviewing their own edited paper

 Login to Wikispaces.

 From the menu, select the page to which you posted your paper.

 After opening your page, you will see the edited text of your paper, including all comments and revisions that your peers in your writing group have made.

 To view the changes made by each group member, click on “View Revisions”.

 You will now see a menu that lists each revised version of your paper posted by other members of your writing workshop group. Click on the first revised version to begin.

 After opening the first revised version of your paper, you will notice that all changes are highlighted. Now, compare the revisions against your original draft to determine if these changes should be adopted in the final version of your paper.

 Continue reading through each revised version of your paper, reviewing the corrections made and comments provided by your peers.

 Respond to each change or correction made by your peers by highlighting the word or sentence about which you would like to comment, then clicking on the “Comment” icon. This will open a new box in which you can type your reply. After you are finished, click “Save” in the comment box.

 Respond to each of the comments posted by your peers by clicking on the “Reply” button in the comment box.

 After reviewing all edited versions, use the suggestions of your peers to create a new draft of your paper.

 Turn in a final draft of your paper by the appropriate deadline, and post the final draft to your Wikispaces page.

4. Assign students a writing assignment, and provide a date by which the first draft of the assignment must be posted to their Wikispaces page.

5. On the day that assignments are posted to Wikispaces, provide group members a deadline for posting revisions and comments online.

6. Instruct students to review and respond to their peers’ revisions and comments.

7. Instruct students to edit or rewrite their own paper, and then post the final draft of their paper to their Wikispaces page.

8. Evaluate student participation in the peer writing workshop using the Peer Revising and Commenting Rubric and Response to Peer Revisions and Comments Rubric (in “Supplemental materials”).

9. After the process, discuss challenges that students faced when using the technology.

10. This process can be repeated for multiple drafts and multiple assignments. In the process, students can see a final draft evolving before their eyes.

11. If this process is used for multiple assignments, the instructor can then assess the final Wikispaces website which constitutes an electronic portfolio of all completed assignments.

Approximate time required

In-class time requirements:

 One 50-minute class session will be required to explain the peer workshop process.

 One half of a 50-minute class session will be required to explain how to use Wikispaces.

Out-of-class time requirements:

 Each student should spend 30 minutes reading and commenting on each peer-writing draft.

 Each student will comment on two drafts, for a total of one hour of work outside of class.

Required resources

 Computer and Internet connection

 Word-processing software (e.g., Microsoft Word)

 Wiki FAQs:

Variations on the basic theme

Wikispaces is a powerful, yet easy-to-use platform that allows multiple users to edit and refine a document or Web page. As such, it is an excellent tool for collaborative work, and provides an easy platform for students to access, edit, revise, or provide comments regarding peer writing. Further, because Wikispaces will track all revisions made by all users, it is possible for the instructor to have a summary of which students were most actively involved in the online workshop. Additionally, Wikispaces can be used to create an electronic writing portfolio. After the revision and rewriting process is complete, students can post a final version of their essay and save this as a separate Web page that can be accessed by either specific users or the general public.

Admittedly, Wikispaces is not the only technology that can make Web-based, out-of-class writing workshops possible. For instance, Google Docs could be used, and students could be provided with passwords to access the documents that contain their peers’ writing assignments. Or, files could be distributed by email, and the “track changes” feature of Microsoft Word could be used to provide comments and suggestions.

Nevertheless, because Wikispaces is extremely easy to use, accessible from any computer with an Internet connection, does not require the sharing of documents via email or discussion boards, and can be used to create a Web-based writing portfolio, it is an ideal platform to use for out-of-class writing workshops.

Such an activity could be adapted for other writing projects as well. Because Wikispaces facilitates collaboration, it could be used to help students complete group writing assignments in a wide variety of disciplines. Or, wiki technologies could be used by student newspaper editors and faculty advisors who need to collaborate with student reporters during the writing process.

Observations and advice

Typically, students are very hesitant to provide constructive criticism to their peers, and what criticism is provided is often very superficial in nature (Beaven, 1977; Nilson, 2003; Pianko & Radzik, 1980). This is, at least in part, due to two reasons: insufficient experience, which makes it difficult to identify problems, and the fear of offending a peer. Simply moving the activity online does not instantly resolve those issues. Additionally, students are sometimes intimidated by the thought of using Web-based tools, and instinctively resist learning to use a new technology.

However, all of these challenges can be addressed by the instructor. Skillful classroom instruction can minimize or eliminate these problems. As such, a critical component of this exercise is to make sure that adequate time is spent teaching students about how the peer-writing workshop works, and explaining the type of issues to look for when reading and editing their peers’ writing (Lam, 2010).

Additionally, instructing students how to use Wikispaces is also necessary. It is easy for instructors to assume that students—many of whom were born into the “Net Generation”—are digital natives, and naturally comfortable with Web-based technologies such as Wikispaces. This is not, however, the case. Research has shown that students are frequently involved in basic Web-based activities, like using email or streaming video, yet only rarely engage in more involved activities such as blogging or Web design (Kennedy et al., 2007). As such, it is important to spend class time explaining how Wikispaces works, helping students create their account, and make initial postings.

Thus, an investment of time is needed prior to initiating wiki-workshops. However, after students understand the process, wiki-workshops ultimately become a time-saver over the course of the semester. Students can effectively and efficiently engage in peer workshop activities outside of class, and the instructor can easily monitor student involvement without using valuable class time.

Recommended reading

Beaven, M. Individualized goal setting, self-evaluation, and peer evaluation. In: Cooper C., Odell L., eds. Evaluating Writing: Describing, Measuring, Judging. Urbana, IL: National Council for Teachers of English; 1977:135–156.

Caverly, D.C., Ward, A. Techtalk: Wikis and collaborate knowledge construction. Journal of Developmental Education. 2009; 32(2):36–37.

Gooding, J. Web 2.0: A vehicle for transforming education. International Journal of Information and Communication Technology. 2008; 4(2):44–45.

Hargadon, S. Web site in a rush. School Library Journal. 2009; 55(1):16–17.

Jakes, D. Wild about Wikis: Tools for taking student and teacher collaboration to the next level. Technology & Learning. 2006; 27(1):6.

Jenkins, H. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press; 2006.

Karegianes, M., Pascarella, E., Pflaum, S. The effects of peer editing on the writing proficiency of low-achieving tenth grade students. Journal of Educational Research. 1980; 73:203–207.

Kennedy, G., Krause, K., Judd, T., Churchward, A., Gray, K., Digital Natives + Others = First Year Students. Educause, Boulder, CO, 2007. Available from

Lam, R. A peer review training workshop: Coaching students to give and evaluate peer feedback. TESL Canada Journal. 2010; 27(2):114–127.

Lamb, A., Johnson, L. An information skills workout: Wikis and collaborative writing. Teacher Librarian. 2007; 34(5):57.

Macrorie, K. Telling Writing. New York: Hayden; 1976.

Maltese, D., Naughter, K. Taking down walls: An international wiki creates a community of thinkers. Voices from the Middle. 2010; 18(1):17–25.

Moffett, J., Wagner, B. Student-centered Language Arts and Reading, K-13. Boston: Houghton Mifflin; 1968.

Morgan, B., Smith, R.D. A wiki for classroom writing. Reading Teacher. 2008; 62(1):80–82.

Nielsen, L. Eight ways to use school wikis. Teach & Learning. 2009; 30(1):32.

Nilson, L.B. Improving student peer feedback. College Teaching. 2003; 51(1):34–38.

Pianko, S., Radzik, A. The student editing method. Theory into Practice. 1980; 19:220–224.

Saovapa, W. Using wikis to develop summary writing abilities of students in an EFL class. Journal of College Teaching & Learning. 2010; 7(12):5–10.

Supplemental materials

This rubric is used to assess student participation in the process of revising and commenting on a peer’s paper.

Table 9.1

Peer revising and commenting rubric

This rubric is used to assess student responses to the peer revisions and comments regarding their own paper.

Table 9.2

Response to peer revisions and comments rubric

2B Collaboration