Wikipedia, Auckland Museum and the Aotearoa New Zealand Histories curriculum - Final Report, March 2022
The focus of this exploratory study was to investigate secondary social studies/history teachers' attitudes to using Wikipedia as a resource for teaching the Aotearoa New Zealand Histories (ANZH) curriculum, that is to be introduced in 2023. Data was gathered by a survey/questionnaire and interviews (n=90). The study found:
- Most participants saw Wikipedia as a reliable resource for national Aotearoa New Zealand history content and valuable to both inform their teaching and for their students to access information for enquiry-based studies. The prevailing view was that Wikipedia was as reliable as any encyclopedia and that it provided a worthwhile starting point in the research process.
- The question of reliability was a concern when it came to accessing local histories on Wikipedia. The encyclopedia was not generally seen as an accurate source of information in this area. The reasons for this are not evident from the survey but drawing on the interviews, this may indicate that some teachers do not see a diverse range of experiences reflected in local history Wikipedia articles. For example, mātauranga Māori perspectives, the increasingly diverse demographic changes in Auckland over the last 40 years as well as more recent historical interpretations that reflect contemporary scholarship.
- Teachers overwhelmingly trusted the information on local history in the Auckland War Memorial Museum (AWMM) as reliable and accurate. Considering this, there is an opportunity for the museum to work with Wikipedia to support teachers by providing resources that enhance articles on Auckland areas that reflect the diverse range of experiences in the region.
- Teachers saw Wikipedia as having the potential to contribute to how students learn to think critically about sources and develop the skills to differentiate between knowledge that is supported by reliable evidence and unverified narratives. However, teachers will require support if they are to use Wikipedia in the classroom for this purpose. Few have edited articles or have an in-depth understanding of how Wikipedia operates. Supporting teachers to develop these skills is closely aligned with AWMM’s Wikimedia strategy. The museum has hosted edit-a-thons and is equipped to deliver the Reading Wikipedia in the Classroom program. There is the opportunity in this area for AWMM to increase teachers' digital literacy skills in using the encyclopaedia, with the ‘flow-on’ effect that, as teachers develop expertise as editors, they could teach their students to contribute to local articles as creators of content.
- While a substantial number of participants thought articles were well written and accessible, there were some who indicated their students found the reading level of the articles too advanced. The extent to which this is an issue was not evident from the data, but considering almost 43% were neutral on this question, this area would benefit from further investigation.
The Aotearoa New Zealand histories curriculum (ANZH) was announced in September 2019 and from 2023, all young people (ages 5-14 years) will be required to learn about New Zealand's past. While there had been a growing momentum by teachers, historians and commentators for the compulsory teaching of Aotearoa New Zealand histories in schools, it was the petitions instigated by Ōtorohanga College students and the New Zealand History Teachers’ Association (2015 and 2019 respectively) that were key factors in generating this initiative. The draft curriculum was developed during 2020/2021 in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders and the final version was released 17 March 2022. It will be implemented in all schools in 2023.
The history curriculum is structured around three aligned strands. The first of these (Understand) is made up of 4 substantial ideas that underpin all aspects of the curriculum. They are, that Māori history is foundational and continuous; that colonization/settlement has been central to this country’s development, that power has been a key factor in shaping people’s lives and that the connections between people in Aotearoa New Zealand and overseas has framed our histories. The second strand (Know) is the prescribed knowledge about Aotearoa New Zealand that all young people will learn. It includes a varied range of histories such as the arrival of different migrant groups, government policies, environmental initiatives, the experience of colonization for Māori and Pakeha, as well as economic activities and the role of Aotearoa New Zealand in overseas conflicts. Local/regional histories are also seen as especially important given the diverse nature of Aotearoa New Zealand society over the last 800 years. The third strand of the curriculum (Do) is concerned with how young people learn to think critically. That is, to appreciate different historical perspectives and draw on a wide range of evidence – including mātauranga Māori sources – in explaining how and why people thought and acted as they did in the past.
The focus of this project was to examine the extent to which Wikipedia is perceived by secondary social studies/history teachers as a valuable resource for teaching the ANZH curriculum across all three strands. While much of the research on teachers' attitudes to Wikipedia has been in the tertiary arena, there is a growing body of studies in secondary classrooms. Much of this indicates that, not unlike the tertiary sector (where some university courses prohibit Wikipedia) teachers have typically been critical of a perceived lack of reliability in the information presented and the uncritical use of this information by students. However, in many cases, students have seen Wikipedia as valuable in their research, despite being cautious about the reliability of the information they access. A Spanish analysis of secondary school student’s perceptions of Wikipedia and the use they made of it (n= 143), showed that students value Wikipedia for its speed, ease of use and broad coverage and largely accepted (what they saw) as its low reliability.
The question of reliability in Wikipedia has been an ongoing issue among teachers despite successive studies demonstrating that Wikipedia compares favorably with other encyclopedias. However, factual accuracy is only part of the role of Wikipedia in disseminating information. Using the encyclopedia (as with any resource) also requires critically evaluating the information. This is especially relevant in the context of the ANZH curriculum, that places a high premium on critically evaluating evidence and sources as well as understanding different perspectives on the past. The so-called ‘Do’ part of the curriculum (see above). Thinking critically about articles, however, poses a challenge in the classroom as students typically engage with Wikipedia as consumers of information rather than critical thinkers. While they largely know how to use digital resources (including Wikipedia), they are less well equipped to recognize when resources are unreliable or biased. They are typically uncritical when searching and selecting information on the internet and seldom reflect on authorship or perspectives.
The lack of critical engagement with Wikipedia may be because few students (even at a tertiary level) contribute to creating content. This process generates an appreciation of how narratives reflect a particular perspective as well as questions to do with reliability and evidence. In a study of first- and second-year university students in Norway (n=39), 94% of the participants had never contributed content. There may be a co-relation between students’ reluctance to engage in editing and that teachers are largely inexperienced in preparing young people to think critically about sources of information in Wikipedia articles. A study of attitudes to Wikipedia by secondary teachers that focused on the effect on student research (n=22), showed that only two of the twenty-two respondents had used the Page Assessment Guide. Most of the teachers surveyed were not familiar with the options on the Wikipedia page to evaluate the information. The study argued that teachers need to be supported to emphasize the information literacy skills that Wikipedia offers and how the encyclopedia operates. For example, how the pages work, the features that can be utilized, and Wikipedia policy that requires contributors to cite verifiable online sources for the items they are writing.
History students appear to be wary of Wikipedia (although not of other areas of the internet). The Stanford History Education group study of how history students ascertained the trustworthiness of information (n=7804) showed that while students determined reliability based on the existence of “evidence” (in particular graphs, charts, infographics, photographs and videos), they seldom questioned whether the “evidence” was verified. This lack of skepticism regarding websites (and superficial understanding of evidence) however was not extended to Wikipedia. Most students were distrustful of the online encyclopedia and largely unaware of Wikipedia’s protocols for regulating and monitoring content.
Teachers in this study appear to have some way to go, to ensure that their students are aware of how Wikipedia functions. For example, how articles are subject to ongoing checking/cross-checking and the value of Wikipedia as a starting place for searches. To shift teachers' thinking about this could be addressed by looking at how experts in a particular field conduct an internet search. They approach Wikipedia (and its references) as a starting point in the research process as well as use the protocols for regulating and monitoring content (talk pages, references, warnings, edit histories) to determine the variable quality of content. An intervention study based on this model provides an insight into how teachers might be supported to use Wikipedia to teach students to evaluate online information for developing critical enquiry. A cohort of teachers who had discouraged students from using Wikipedia for school related tasks engaged in the intervention and after this, were positive about encouraging their students to emulate the way that expert web users engaged with the encyclopedia.
This project was mixed-methods small-scale exploratory project with a survey of secondary history/social studies teachers' attitudes to using Wikipedia with their students (n=83), supported by 7 interviews. The survey identified broad themes regarding the research questions and the interviews provided the opportunity to explore these in further depth.
The survey was conducted 25th February to 15th March 2022 with secondary school social studies/history teachers of Years 9/10, invited to participate. Teachers in this area are typically specialist teachers in the social sciences/history and will be responsible for delivering the curriculum at this level. The survey link was sent to members of the New Zealand History Teachers Association (NZHTA), the Auckland History Teachers Association (AHTA) and the Aotearoa Social Studies Educators’ Network (ASSEN). These teaching communities are closely involved in supporting their members to implement the ANZH curriculum in secondary schools and the survey link was sent via the chairperson/s of these respective teaching communities; indicating that the executives in all these respective teaching communities were supportive of the project.
The first 10 items in the survey were focused on Wikipedia and the subsequent 11 items explored issues to do with the ANZH curriculum and how the AWMM museum might support teachers (total 21). Sixty-one (61) teachers completed all the questions in the survey, but 22 participants only completed the first 10 questions (and not the questions on the ANZH curriculum). As well as the survey, seven (n=7) leading Auckland teacher-experts in history/social studies education were interviewed during the first week of survey period (28th February – 4th March). The interviews were based on a purposive sample with those invited to participate, being acknowledged for their leading role either in the history/social studies community or in their schools. These semi-structured interviews were conducted via zoom, lasted 30-40 minutes and were based on the survey questions. They provided the opportunity to probe areas that had emerged in the literature and expand on the themes/trends that were the focus of the survey. For the purposes of this report, data has been drawn from all the participants who completed the first 10 questions (n=83) as well as the 7 interviewees (n=90).
The survey had a clear co-relation with the NZ secondary school sector; 65% of teachers were from co-educational state schools, 18% from state Girls’ schools and 6.6% from state Boys’ schools. With over 90% of participants from the state sector (the majority from co-educational schools) this study largely reflects the demographic of state/private schools in New Zealand; only around 5% of schools are independent private institutions. In addition, just over 50% of the schools were from Auckland (50.8%) and 49.2% were an even spread from throughout the country. This reflects the school demographic in Aotearoa New Zealand with almost half of secondary school students located in the Auckland region.
Most participants made some use of Wikipedia with their students; especially as an initial source for information and for enquiry-based studies. Fewer than 10% (9.6%) had not used Wikipedia for their teaching, while 51.8% had accessed Wikipedia for their teaching in the last 3-months and 16.9% on the day they filled out the survey (Total: 68.7%). Most teachers had also encouraged students to use Wikipedia to access information: 63.9% did so ‘sometimes’ and 13.3% ‘often’; (almost 77%). Fewer than a quarter (22.9%) did not encourage students to do so. Wikipedia was also popular among participants for personal use with 97.6% of teachers having made use of Wikipedia for their own interests (although only 14.5% had edited an article).
Wikipedia was generally seen as accessible. There were some comments that students found the articles too complex and difficult to read but this was not a common feature of the interviews; over 40% surveyed thought articles were well written and only 14.4% thought they were not. A substantial number however (43.4%) were neutral regarding this question and there is some alignment with the subsequent question in relation to students being able to successfully access historical information from Wikipedia. While over 50% agreed this was the case (and only 15% disagreed) almost 30% were neutral about this question. The reason for this is not immediately apparent but considering that a substantial number of participants were neutral on these two questions indicate this area would benefit from further investigation.
There was support for the potential of Wikipedia as a tool for learning how to think critically; teaching students to make use of talk/view/editing features of the articles so they could become critical consumers of content. This was seen an important issue by the interviewees who indicated their students generally operated as passive (rather than critical) consumers of content and that some were tempted to ‘cut and paste’ sections of articles for research projects. Just under half of those teachers surveyed thought Wikipedia could help young people to examine sources and think critically about the past (44.6%). Fewer than a ¼ (24.1%) thought this was not the case (26.5% neutral).
Although there was some caution regarding reliability, the prevailing view was that Wikipedia was as reliable as any other encyclopedia for national histories of Aotearoa New Zealand and that it was a valuable starting point in the research process as well as a good place to access references. However, this was not the case regarding Wikipedia and local histories. While almost 93% of teachers trusted the information on local history in the AWMM, as reliable and accurate, when asked if Wikipedia was a reliable source of information on local history; 50.6% disagreed and 25.3% agreed. This was further emphasized when participants were asked to respond to the following statement that ‘Wikipedia was a valuable source of local history information for my students’; Only 17% agreed and 40% disagreed (almost 40% - 39.8% - were neutral).
Most participants saw Wikipedia as a reliable resource for national Aotearoa New Zealand history content. They saw the encyclopedia both as valuable to inform their teaching and for their students to access information for enquiry-based studies. The prevailing view was that Wikipedia was as reliable as any encyclopedia and that it provided a valuable starting point in the research process (as well as being a good place to access references). Almost 70% made use of Wikipedia to inform their teaching and 77% encouraging their students to use Wikipedia to access information. Wikipedia was also widely accessed by participants with 97% having made use of Wikipedia for their own interests within the previous 3-months.
These results indicate that in a secondary specialist subject teaching community (where teachers are generally confident in their own subject knowledge), Wikipedia is largely seen as a reliable resource for accessing information both personally and for their students. However, this may reflect the subject expertise of participants in this cohort: e.g., specialist history/social studies teachers who typically encourage their students to critically evaluate the information they access in any resource. When participants were asked how confident they were to use historical sources in their teaching and reflect different interpretations, 95% of teachers were confident they could do, although only 42% felt well equipped to use mātauranga Māori sources.
The question of reliability was a particular concern when it came to accessing local histories on Wikipedia. While teachers overwhelmingly trusted the information on local history in the AWMM as accurate (93%), a substantial number did not see Wikipedia as a reliable source of information on local history. The prevailing view was that while sites like Te Ara and NZhistory.net provide in-depth coverage of national histories of Aotearoa New Zealand (and Wikipedia provided a good overview and starting point for research), there is a gap in local histories (especially in Auckland). Although it is not evident from the survey (but came through in some of the interviews), this may indicate that teachers do not see a diverse range of experiences reflected in local history Wikipedia articles. For example, mātauranga Māori perspectives, the increasingly diverse demographic changes in Auckland over the last 40 years as well as more recent historical interpretations that reflect contemporary scholarship.
These concerns provide an opportunity for AWMM (working with Wikipedia) that aligns with its Wikimedia strategy. AWMM already has a commitment to make its collections digitally accessible (e.g., over 160,000 openly licensed AWMM images are available via Wikimedia) and a series of carefully curated, differentiated sources from a range of perspectives would be valuable (especially if these could build on existing articles on local histories). AWMM also hosts a part-time Wikimedian-in-residence, the museum has facilitated an edit-a-thon. The library has resources that can be used for enhancing Wikipedia articles on the Auckland region and suburbs have been identified. In addition, AWMM staff are approved to deliver the Reading Wikipedia in the Classroom program. This provides an in-depth professional development opportunity to increase teachers' proficiency in accessing, evaluating and creating information by developing their digital literacy skills so that they, and eventually their students, can engage with Wikipedia with confidence.
Potentially Wikipedia was seen as contributing to how students learn to use historical sources and think critically about the past, e.g., teaching students to make use of talk/view/editing features of the articles. This is closely aligned with the ‘do’ strand of the ANZH curriculum (see above) that requires young people to develop an understanding of evidence, sources and different perspectives. The ongoing development of articles (and the referencing and editing protocols) are a practical way in the classroom to both teach young people how historical narratives are shaped, as well as to learn to think critically about evidence and sources. Students can use the view and talk and edit tabs on each article, to track the process of how a narrative has been constructed and to get an insight into how versions of the past are open to question and the role that evidence has in how historical narratives are supported. However, teachers require support in this area. While most engage with Wikipedia both personally and in teaching their students, few have edited articles or understand how Wikipedia operates. There is the opportunity in this area for AWMM to increase teachers' digital literacy skills in using the encyclopaedia, with the ‘flow-on’ effect that, as teachers develop expertise as editors, they could teach their students to contribute to local articles as creators of content.
Researcher/Writer - Dr Mark Sheehan, Victoria University of Wellington & Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum Auckland Museum
Project Manager - James Taylor, Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum - email: email@example.com
Ball, G. ‘The Long History of learning about our own History’, The New Zealand Journal of Public History, 7:1 (2020) 20-30.
Bell, L., ‘Difficult Histories’, The New Zealand Journal of Public History, 7:1 (2020) 7-12.
Blikstad-Balas, M., ’You get what you need: A study of students’ attitudes towards using Wikipedia when doing school assignments’, Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 60 (2016) 594-608.
Breakstone, J., McGrew, S., Smith, M., Ortega, T., Wineburg, S. ’Why we need a new approach to teaching digital literacy,” Phi Delta Kappan 99:6 (2018) 27-32.
Brox, H. ‘The Elephant in the Room: A Place for Wikipedia in Higher Education?’ Nordlit, 30 (2012), 143-155.
Buckingham, D., ‘Defining digital literacy - What do young people need to know about digital media?’, Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy, 10 (2015), 21-35.
Carr. H., Lipscomb, S. (eds). What is History Now? Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2021.
Cuquet, M., San Pedro, M. ‘Perceptions and Usage of Wikipedia among Secondary Education Students’. Education in the Knowledge Society, 20 (2019), 1-15.
Davidson, C.N. ‘We Can't Ignore the Influence of Digital Technologies’, The Chronicle of Higher Education. (2007, March 23).
Jenkins, H., Clinton, K., Purushotma, R., Robinson, A.J., Weigel, M. Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: media education for the 21st century. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009.
Konieczny, P. ‘Teaching with Wikipedia in a 21st-century classroom: Perceptions of Wikipedia and its educational benefits’, Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 67:7 (2012), 1523-1534
Mesgari, M., Okoli, C., Mehdi, M, F.A. Nielsen, F.A., Lanamäki, A., ‘The sum of all human knowledge? A systematic review of scholarly research on the content of Wikipedia’. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 66:2 (2015), 219-245.
Mackintosh, L. Shifting Grounds: Deep Histories of Tamaki Makaurau Auckland, Bridget Williams Books, Wellington, 2021.
McAloon, J. “Give us our history”: In support of history teachers’, New Zealand Journal of History, 54: 1 (April 2020), 49-50.
McDowell, Z.J., Vetter, V.A. Wikipedia and the Representation of Reality, Routledge, New York, 2022.
McGrew. S., Byrne, V.L., ’Teaching Wikipedia: Supporting Students in Lifelong Learning’, 14th International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS) proceedings, June 19-23, 2020, Nashville, Tennessee.
Polk, T and Evers, S. Wikipedia Use in Research Perceptions in Secondary Schools. TecTrends, May/June, 59 (2015), 92-102.
Sheehan, M., Ball, G. ‘Teaching and learning New Zealand’s difficult histories’, New Zealand Journal of History, 54: 1 (April 2020), 51-68.
Wineburg, S., McGrew, S. ’Lateral reading and the nature of expertise: Reading less and learning more when evaluating digital information, Teachers College Record, 121:11 (2019), 1-40.
- NZ history to be taught in all schools, 12 September 2019, https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/nz-history-be-taught-all-schools
- The Ōtorohanga College petition box is part of the AWMM collection and currently features on display. Leah Bell was one of the students who set up the petition and outlines this process in: Leah Bell, ‘Difficult Histories’, The New Zealand Journal of Public History (2020).
- Mark Sheehan and Graeme Ball, ‘Teaching and learning New Zealand’s difficult histories’, New Zealand Journal of History, 54: 1 (April 2020), 51-68. Jim McAloon, ‘“Give us our history”: In support of history teachers’, New Zealand Journal of History, 54: 1 (April 2020), 49-50; Graeme Ball, ‘The Long History of learning about our own History’, The New Zealand Journal of Public History (2020).
- C.N. Davidson, ‘We Can't Ignore the Influence of Digital Technologies’, The Chronicle of Higher Education. (2007, March 23)
- P. Konieczny, ‘Teaching with Wikipedia in a 21st-century classroom: Perceptions of Wikipedia and its educational benefits’, Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 67(7), 2012, pp 1523-1534
- Marti Cuquet and Maria Jose Garcia San Pedro, ‘Perceptions and Usage of Wikipedia among Secondary Education Students’. Education in the Knowledge Society, Vol. 20, 2019, pp 1-15
- M. Mesgari, C. Okoli, M. Mehdi, F.A. Nielsen, A. Lanamäki, 2015. The sum of all human knowledge? A systematic review of scholarly research on the content of Wikipedia. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 66(2), 2015, pp 219-245; Zachary J. McDowell and Matthew A. Vetter, Wikipedia and the Representation of Reality, Routledge, New York, 2022, pp 26-29.
- H. Jenkins, K. Clinton, R. Purushotma, A.J. Robinson, M. Weigel. Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: media education for the 21st century. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009.
- David Buckingham, ‘Defining digital literacy - What do young people need to know about digital media?’, Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy, 10, pp. 21-35, 2015.
- H. Brox, ‘The Elephant in the Room: A Place for Wikipedia in Higher Education?’ Nordlit, 30, pp 143-155, 2012.
- Polk, T and Evers, S. (2015). Wikipedia Use in Research Perceptions in Secondary Schools. TecTrends, May/June, 59:3, pp 92-102.
- Joel Breakstone, Sarah McGrew, Mark Smith, Teresa Ortega and Sam Wineburg, ’Why we need a new approach to teaching digital literacy,” Phi Delta Kappan (99:6), pp 27-32, 2018
- Sam Wineburg and Sarah McGrew, ’Lateral reading and the nature of expertise: Reading less and learning more when evaluating digital information, Teachers College Record, (121:11), 2019.
- Sarah McGrew and Virginia L. Byrne, ’Teaching Wikipedia: Supporting Students in Lifelong Learning’, 14th International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS) June 19-23, 2020, Nashville, Tennessee.
- M. Blikstad-Balas, ’You get what you need: A study of students’ attitudes towards using Wikipedia when doing school assignments’, Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, (60) pp 594-608, 2016
- The ANZH curriculum is compulsory for years 1-10 with progression in learning based on 4 levels: namely years 1-3; 4-6; 7-8 and 9-10. Years 9-10 in NZ is when young people begin secondary school and teachers at this level are subject specialists whereas primary teachers – years 1-8 - are typically generalists. For further information see https://aotearoahistories.education.govt.nz/
- 61: (full survey - 21 items) + 22 (first 10 items) + 7 interviews = 90 participants
- This sentence draws on the 61 participants who completed the full survey. It is included as it provides some insight into the knowledge/skills of this particular cohort.
- In regards recent historical scholarship that reflect the changing nature of the discipline, see: Helen Carr and Suzannah Lipscomb (eds). What is History Now? Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2021; For local history of Auckland that reflects the shifting interpretations of the connections between place and people see: Lucy Mackintosh, Shifting Grounds: Deep Histories of Tamaki Makaurau Auckland, Bridget Williams Books, Wellington, 2021.
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:GLAM/Auckland_Museum/Suburbs; Māngere Bridge is a good model for these: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Māngere_Bridge,_New_Zealand