Education/News/November 2017/How we defined what secondary education students need

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How we defined what secondary education students need[edit]

Author: Theklan

Summary: Basque Wikimedians User Group's Education Program has a clear focus: developing better content for secondary school (High School, K12) pupils with the help of university students and teachers. This goal harbours a big challenge inside, defining what is important for 12-16 year-old schoolchildren and measuring the quality of these topics. We started with the government's Curriculum Decree, and now we are trying to develop a more concise summary of topics so that we can reach a good understanding of schoolchildren's needs.

Who we write for[edit]

Schoolchildren and students are one of our most faithful readers. Besides pop culture or daily news topics, some articles are only visited by schoolchildren and students, as they need them to fulfill their assignments, or simply because teachers are demanding it. You can see a pattern for this on the daily views on Solar System article. We have more page views from Monday to Friday than on Saturday and Sunday, and this suggests that these articles are being read for uses other than leisure.

Students and schoolchildren are faithful readers, and as a project we should provide them with quality articles in their language. We may discuss what quality means here, but let us talk bold: quality is covering what readers expect, with a clear and concise language, being didactic and doing it all in the readers' language. That is our goal in the Education Program: we want to provide a basic pack, i.e. summarized knowledge compiled in articles, because they need it and they need it in Basque language.

How to know what to write about[edit]

When we started the project, we had a rough idea of what schoolchildren's needs were, so we defined it as "1,000 articles 12-16 year-old schoolchildren need". However, the problem of defining 1,000, exactly 1,000, was our first wall. In the Basque Country an institution devoted to pedagogy exists, and similar institutions can be found elsewhere, so we contacted them and they advised us on the process: Governments regularly publish documents on what teachers must evaluate when formal education finishes, and these documents are used both by teachers and book-publishers consecutively to make their exams and build their textbooks .

So we got access to this document, and started working on what schoolchildren are expected to know when they complete mandatory education at 16 years old. These kind of documents may be more or less accessible worldwide, but their content is the basis for most of the textbooks. Therefore it should exist at some level.

We started retrieving topics cited in the Decree, and tried to make round numbers on each section. The task was not easy, as topics were presented philosophically and not as a list of things. Others were easier, as the main concepts were ordered. And some others were a draft, so we attempted to get some advice from people involved in the topic. Economics or gender-studies where not perfectly shaped, and making a list of universal literature was quite random.

1,600 topics, growing to 2,000[edit]

Our first goal was to define 1,000 topics, but reality was over it, and soon we reached more than 1,300 potential articles. So we rounded up everything, making a broader approach in many topics, and we defined 1,610 articles in this first approach. Our first contacts with university lecturers makes us think that we will reach a final number of around 2,000, as many topics can be defined better.

But... are these 1,600 topics what the 12-16 year-old need? We have put together a list of nearly 1,300 articles by now, and this represents less than 0.5% of the articles existing in our Wikipedia, but their visits figures say it all: 7% of the daily visits target these 1,300 articles, and some of them are in the most-read list from Monday to Friday. You can check some statistics and figures here.

Enter the gender[edit]

One problem we faced in this process was deciding how to handle the gender gap issue. Every list of 1,000 topics you should know, even the Wikipedia one, are remarkably slanted towards men and European people. In the Curriculum decree, a broad-sensed sentence is included elsewhere: "pupils should know about the role of women in this topic", but this topic has never materialized in textbooks, so women have their place and schoolchildren should but can not know about it. Besides this, virtually all in the VIP list schoolchildren should know are men, and women are exceptions showed as examples of well, women can also do this. Therefore we decided to build a new way, and take some decisions:

  • Firstly, we deleted nearly every biography from the list. We thought that most of the men-you-should-know are still there, so adding them to a list does not make things better.
  • Some biographies must remain, as they are part of a broad introduction to some other topics, e.g. Charles Darwin, Nicolaus Copernicus or Galileo Galilei appear as a topic, and not as a name, because they introduced a full revolution in their science, so we decided to leave them there. Some women, such as Basque teacher Elbira Zipitria, are also included in this small biographies list.
  • A whole new topic needs to be created, in the same way as we have Mathematics or Biology: Women and gender. In this topic we built this "schoolchildren should know" idea, with a list of 70 topics that can be covered, from women participation on different science domains to history of women's rights to some other current affairs on reproductive rights, gender issues and feminism.

This would be the very first time that this topic is extended and written down for schoolchildren, so their real need, since their curriculum notes it is important, can be covered using Wikipedia. Furthermore, university students will have a topic on gender they can develop as their classroom assignment, involving both university and researchers on a whole new topic.

Let's start![edit]

Now we are holding meetings with university leaders, professors and lecturers, but some test-programs are currently being implemented, so that we can see how many classrooms we can handle during the next months. Students have started with topics on physics and geology, and first results seem to be good... but we have to wait till they end their work. As we have pointed, some professors are demanding more specific things, as they can not handle many broad knowledge articles in their quite specific classroom. In some weeks we will have the first statistics, thanks to the Dashboard, so we will be in a position to report on these first endevour.

Tags: k12, secondary school, high school, curriculum, featured content, Basque Wikimedians User Group