Published on Fri Sep 24 2021

Enculturating a Community of Action (CoA): A qualitative study of health professions educators' perspectives on teaching with Wikipedia

Martin, P. C., Maggio, L., Murray, H., Willinsky, J. M.

Purpose: There is a growing desire for health professions educators to engage learners in more meaningful instruction. Many have tapped Wikipedia to offer an applied approach to engage learners, particularly as it relates to evidence-based medicine (EBM). However, little is known about the benefits and challenges of using Wikipedia as a pedagogical tool from the collective experience of educators who have sought to improve their instructional practice with it. This study aims to uncover and synthesize the perspectives of health professions education (HPE) instructors who have incorporated Wikipedia in their HPE courses. Methods: Applying a constructivist approach, the authors conducted semi-structured interviews with 17 participating HPE instructors who had substantively integrated Wikipedia into their curriculum. Participants were interviewed about their experiences of integrating Wikipedia editing into their courses. Thematic analysis was conducted on resulting transcripts. Results: Authors observed two broad themes among participants' expressed benefits of teaching with Wikipedia: 1) provides a meaningful instructional alternative that also benefits society and develops learners' information literacy and EBM skills, and 2) supports learners' careers and professional identity formation. Identified challenges included: 1) high effort and time, 2) issues with sourcing references, and 3) challenging interactions with skeptics, editors, and students. Discussion: Findings build on known benefits, such as providing a real-world collaborative project that contextualizes students' learning experiences. They also echo known challenges, such as the resource-intensive nature of teaching with Wikipedia. At the same time, findings extend the current literature by revealing a potential opportunity to approach crowd-sourced information tools, like Wikipedia, as a vehicle to engage and enculturate HPE students within a situated learning context. These findings present implications for HPE programs considering implementing Wikipedia and faculty development needed to help instructors harness crowd-sourced information tools' pedagogical opportunities as well as anticipate their challenges.