A Fresh Perspective on Recommendation Letters

Guest classroom practices blog post written by David Sawyer, AP English Literature/British Literature at Brentwood Academy

20140820-DavidSawyerThe college counseling office at my school is so organized that all juniors are required to request teachers to write recommendations for them by the spring of the year. Once teachers have agreed to write these letters, we have until early September to turn them in to the college counselors. I have been writing such letters for over thirty years, and I am always trying to make each letter sound authentic and personal. But it is only recently that I discovered what a friend I have in Turnitin when it comes to adding color to these recommendations.

Peer Review Strategies that Work

Third installment of blog series, "Turnitin Strategies in the Writing Process" by Mary Lawson, Professor of English at Houston Community College

20140820-MaryLawsonI change my mind frequently about peer review. I know it has some inherent problems: Students don’t know enough to effectively critique each others’ essays; students don’t want to “be mean” and so often leave ineffective comments; grading the process is problematic, etc. I do believe, however, that peer review also has some inherent benefits: Students are able to see the thoughts of their classmates; students are often more effective at peer review than they think; students are able to practice critical analysis skills; students are able to read “real” student writing and mimic language and style. Yes, there will always be those students who do a poor job, but the benefits are important. If we never ask students to try, we will never know what they are capable of.

Strong Start: Ensuring Alignment at the Beginning of the Semester

Classroom practices quick tip by Elizabeth Jones, Professor of Business at Notre Dame of Maryland University

20140820-ElizabethJones-1Some tasks seem never ending, but up-front preparation can help. At the beginning of every term, I review all syllabi in my department to ensure alignment between objectives and assignments. This gives me an opportunity to see what my colleagues have planned and provides the perfect opportunity to make sure our departmental goals are reflected in the assignments. If we get it right, this year our university and program goals will be measurable in our course rubrics. Over the past months, my colleagues and I have worked together on a variety of rubrics in the business curriculum in order to align them with our university’s mission as well as our program. Like many, we have found the AAC&U VALUE rubrics to be of great help. Turnitin has the AAC&U rubrics already built, which made it easy for several colleagues to craft our own by customizing the pre-built rubrics.

See AACU Value Rubrics


Taming the Plagiarism Beast

Plagiarism strategies blog series by Audrey Wick, English Professor at Blinn College

audrey-wick-squareWhen students plagiarize, many instructors get angry. And rightly so: students are not learning (or, perhaps, simply not demonstrating or not caring about) what they are supposed to be learning. A flash of Incredible Hulk-like rage may make you want to smash your computer screen--but don't. Breathe.

And breathe again.

Now, while there are morality issues in regard to why students plagiarize, focusing exclusively on those may be misguided. There seems to be promise in approaching plagiarism from communication and development avenues.

Reduce Plagiarism with In-Class Exercises

Second installment of blog series, "Rethinking How We Discuss Plagiarism" by Jennifer Schroeder, Associate Professor of Biology, Millikin University

Jennifer-Schroeder-squareOne of the comments I have heard the most from students is that they don’t know what paraphrasing means, or that they have no idea how to paraphrase from the information they are reading. This is especially true if you’re teaching a class outside of a student’s major. How can we better explain this concept to our students?

Lafayette Eaton's Favorite QuickMark Comments

QuickMark Comments listed by Lafayette Eaton, Adjunct Chemistry Instructor at St. John Fisher College

"If it is indicated that data was recorded refer to it in the experimental procedure in one of three ways:
  • Example 1: Mass and volume data for the three trials are reported in Table 1. Note: In this case, the present tense is appropriate.
  • Example 2: Mass and volume data were collected for three trials (Table 1).
  • Example 3. The mass of the substance was measured (1.123 g)

[The abbreviation DL represents data location. This reminds students that they need to indicate to the reader the location of any data discussed in the lab report. ]


Consistency in Feedback and Aligning Goals

charles-trafford-squareClassroom practices blog post by Charles Trafford, AP English Literature teacher at Inglemoor High School

As an English literature teacher, the improvement of literary critical analysis skills and writing skills are the heart of my student learning goals. Turnitin has been extremely helpful in helping me help my students achieve their academic goals. When I first started using Turnitin I quickly discovered that I could specifically tailor my comments in my QuickMark comments to target specific goals of my assignments.

10 QuickMark Comments for Documentation Issues

Featured classroom practices blog post by Kent Walker, Writing Communication Instructor at Brock University

Kent Walker 2In my writing classes, students are required to design several research papers. Setting up a specific QM set for documentation issues has expedited the process of reminding students about the importance of appropriate and correct referencing and citing for sources. The QMs in this set are connected to at least one criterion on the associated assignment’s rubric which contains descriptors about achievement levels related to the sufficiency, variety, currency, use, and correctness of in-text or bibliographic citations. Certainly, as well, this set has an intimate connection to comments I might make about the paper's Originality Report. Depending on the assignment, the set might contain QMs represented in the following chart: 


Turnitin QuickStart Guide

Check out the Turnitin QuickStart Guide for instructors and students. Help colleagues get started using Turnitin today to improve student learning with the following videos:

  • Instructor QuickStart Part 1: Getting Started with Turnitin
  • Instructor QuickStart Part 2: Setting-Up and Submitting Assignments
  • Instructor QuickStart Part 3: Evaluating Originality Reports
  • Instructor QuickStart Part 4: Providing Feedback and Grading
  • QuickStart for Students

Enhancing Connections: Using the "Trans" QM

Featured classroom practices blog post by Kent Walker, Writing Communication Instructor at Brock University

Kent Walker 2Whether I am assessing assignments for my university-level writing or literature classes, one of the most frequent self-designed QuickMarks I employ is trans, accompanied in the “Additional Comments” box with this clarifying explanation: “a transitional word or phrase needs to be inserted here to enhance the coherence/connection of ideas in this context”.

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