Wikipedia’s Coverage Of Education Gets A C-

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On his blog, cognitive scientist Dan Willingham evaluates Wikipedia’s education coverage—and finds it lacking:

“For some time now I’ve noticed that articles in Wikipedia got things wrong, even allowing for the fact that some topics in education are controversial. So in a not-at-all scientific test, I looked up a few topics that came to mind.”

Willingham examined the Wikipedia entries for “reading education,” “mathematics education, “learning styles,” and “constructivism,” and concludes:

“Of the four passages I examined I wouldn’t give better than a C- to any of them. They are, to varying degrees, disorganized, incomplete, and inaccurate.”

Willingham notes that although “Wikipedia articles seem to fare well for accuracy compared to traditional edited encyclopedias,” it may be that education differs from other topics covered by Wikipedia:

“The studies [of Wikipedia’s accuracy] that I have seen compared articles on pretty arcane topics—the sort of thing that no one has an opinion on other than a handful of experts. Who is going to edit the entry on Photorefractive Keratectomy? But lots of people have opinions about the teaching of reading—and there are lots of bogus ‘sources’ they can cite.” (Read more here.)

Willingham’s critique brings to mind the efforts of Mahzarin Banaji, a Harvard psychology professor, to address the often misinformed and incomplete Wikipedia coverage of psychology. As president of the Association for Psychological Science, Banaji launched the APS Wikipedia Initiative “to improve the quality and quantity of the information about psychological science presented in Wikipedia.” Perhaps something similar needs to be done for education coverage.

Readers, have you turned to Wikipedia for information about education, and if so, how high was the quality of what you found there?

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One Response to “Wikipedia’s Coverage Of Education Gets A C-”

  1. Yes, I have. Just to look up a term quickly that I didn’t know much about. I have looked at the reference lists as well. I would never use Wikipedia to get in-depth information about a topic that I need to write about. I have often wondered too why certain scholars’ perspectives are described, when others are ignored. But wouldn’t the situation in education research be the same as any other field in which there are multiple perspectives on a single topic or where not all interventions have been tested? And I do think it’s also true that lots of people have strong opinions on education that they think are based on real world experiences (since nearly everyone has been to a formal school and had a teacher and went through complex learning processes).

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