Providing Targeted and Customized Feedback to Community College Students
Alan Loya, English Professor & Jacob Menchaca, Student
Alan Loya explains how Turnitin can be used to customize feedback and prepare students to write at the university level. One of his students also joins in the conversation and shares how Turnitin has helped him improve his writing skills.
Turnitin: Welcome to the Turnitin Educator Spotlight Series. I'm joined today by Alan Loya, an English Professor at Citrus College and a Turnitin power user as well as Jacob Menchaca, one of his students. Alan, for our listeners, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
A.L.: Sure, thanks for having me. I teach English 99 at Citrus College, which is a developmental or building block class that is slightly below college level to get students prepared to write persuasive essays at the college and university level.
Turnitin: With those building block classes and in being able to teach slightly below college level students what has been the most beneficial thing about Turnitin and how has it helped you as an instructor?
A.L.: GradeMark through Turnitin allows me to respond to the different problems and concerns that each student has regardless of what the other students in the class have going on in their papers. So for one student it may be commas and they may have sentences that just don’t make any sense. For another student, it may be that they don’t have good punctuation and they’re not citing their sources correctly and so on and so on and so on. So, I can uniquely tailor my comments to specifically address issues and concerns that every student has.
Turnitin: What have you seen from the student perspective? Have you seen any type of growth at all?
A.L.: Oh, tremendous growth in their writing. I had one student who told me that she went to a school that was kind of a troubled, struggling high school. She actually didn’t attend class for a significant portion of the year and still passed her classes and when she came into college, she did not even know how to write a paragraph and when she left the class, she knew how to write an essay. And she said, “Now I know. I know how to write in college.”
Turnitin: With that, why don’t we shift gears a bit and hear from one of your students, Jacob. Jacob, thanks for chatting with us today. For our listeners, could you state your name, the institution you’re part of and what your impression of Turnitin is.
A.L.: My name is Jacob Menchaca and I attend Citrus College. I really enjoy it because when I get feedback online, I’m able to process everything much clearer because I can see what it is I need to do it (the fixes) on and I could look it up right there instead of getting paper feedback and just laying it off to the side and not really trying to improve what it is that I need help with.
Turnitin: Could you talk a little bit more about that? What about electronic feedback helps you be more engaged?
A.L.: With electronic feedback, when I see my paper online, I’m able to process (in my mind): “Okay this is what I need help with.” If I see something that seems to be common throughout the paper, I can just look it up right now on my computer. But if I were to get paper feedback, I would kind of just look at it and say, “Okay, I’ll get back to it.” (But) there probably will be a chance that I really won’t get back to it soon.
Turnitin: What features do you like the most? Does Professor Loya do something pretty unique or does he give really good audio comments?
A.L.: I really like his general comments. He tends not to use the preset comments…only when they are necessary. Like he will grade the entire paper and at the end, he’ll have a comment: “This is what you need help with. This is what I thought of your paper. This is what you should consider writing next time or this is what you could do to better improve yourself and I think that ties up everything together well—the general comments throughout the essay—and wrapping everything up with a brief summary what it is you need to improve on.
Turnitin: So I guess, a follow up question to that is when you receive that feedback that Professor Loya gives you –those general comments—what’s kind of your thought process and how do you use it develop the writing for your next assignment?
A.L.: I’ll look at those comments and I’ll feel, “Okay, this is something that I need to work on.” So, I’ll take mental note of that and when I go out to my next writing classes I’ll say, “Okay, this is what I need to watch out for. This is what I need to avoid.” So, I’ll try and tackle that and with Turnitin, I could just go back to papers and look at what it is I did wrong and use that to improve my papers.
Turnitin: And then, I guess the last thing is… has Turnitin’s OriginalityCheck system helped you become a better writer?
A.L.: Definitely, I remember when I first began citing in high school and I got my papers back in Turnitin, I didn’t quite understand where it is the quote ended, where I needed to put my citations at. And over time, it just became a natural process. I could do it without even thinking about it now. It’s tremendously improved in these two years.
Turnitin: Thank you both so much for taking the time to share your experience with us. I’ve been talking to English professor Alan Loya and his student Jacob Menchaca from Citrus College.