Provide Targeted Instruction for the Underprepared

At Citrus College, instructors use Turnitin to provide targeted instruction and in-depth feedback to close the
preparation gap that exists for many of their students.


Citrus College
Glendora, CA
Public, Community College
12,000 Students

"When students wants to improve an essay, sometimes they don’t know what to do. With Turnitin, my students always know where to go. That’s what Turnitin gives students." Alan Loya, English instructor

“I am in this world to be a teacher…”

Alan Loya teaches at Citrus College, a community college of about 12,000 students located in Glendora, CA. The student demographic of Citrus College is over 36% Hispanic, and the majority are English-language learners who come from moderate-to low-income families. As an instructor of English 99, a developmental English class, Loya is willing to help his students at all costs despite the personal challenges they face. “I am in this world to be a teacher, because I like helping people achieve their dreams and find themselves. This is the job that I was supposed to do in life.”

The Challenge of Instructing Community College Students

In describing community college students, Loya observes, “Many students are often underprepared, less experienced, and have seen lower educational success than some other students.” He adds, “They are highly intelligent, but not yet highly skilled.”

The key challenge in helping these students is the additional time and focus on instruction required. Loya points out, “Lower skilled students desire to learn just as much as skilled students, but they need more attention to detail. They need more time. I can’t just give them a grade on the essay. I have to explain the details of their grade and what it takes to improve.” In contrast, Loya suggests that highly-skilled essay writers would probably understand comments like, “Your thesis was unclear” or “Your paragraphs had weak transitions.” The bottom line is that less well-prepared students need more feedback on multiple aspects of their writing. But, as is often the case, there can be a gap between the targeted instruction needed to improve student outcomes and the limits of class and instructor time.

Using Turnitin to Provide Targeted Instruction

Highlighting Turnitin’s effectiveness as a timesaving and targeted writing instruction tool, Loya makes the case, “To make targeted feedback instruction happen in real-time, it would take a lot of time. If I had to do that for the whole essay and for a class of thirty-five just so that they would understand each and every part, I’d have to cancel class for two weeks and meet with them one at a time--and I still wouldn’t be able to get it done.” He adds, “By using Turnitin’s online grading tool, I can speak with detail about what they really need to improve on. I can leave in-line comments and voice comments. When I get inside the paper, I can have them understand what I thought about the different aspects of their paper and be able to improve the different things that I’m looking for.”

In summary, Loya benefits in using Turnitin as a “mini-conference writing tool” where he can explain to students every detail to ensure that “every student knows exactly what he wants and exactly what he thinks on every part of the paper.”

Improving Student-Writing Outcomes: “Now I get it.”

One of Loya’s students shared his impression of Loya’s class and efforts: “I felt like I didn’t know anything about writing before I had this class. Now, I get it. I feel like I can write in college now.” There is a passion that comes through as he describes these small victories, as students “get it” and are empowered to succeed.

Results

Loya shares his overall impression of Turnitin and why he thinks it is valuable to use online grading tools.

When students want to improve their essays, sometimes they don’t know what to do. With Turnitin, my students always know where to go. That’s what Turnitin gives students. It gives them that level of specificity. Each time we go through that process, it’s like adding two weeks of effectiveness to the semester.There are few tools that provide two weeks of additional time per writing assignment.

More than just improving student outcomes, Loya is also instilling in his students a drive to learn and giving them the skills to succeed in the process. “As Archimedes once said, ‘If you give me a fulcrum and a lever long enough, I can lift the world.’ I really think Turnitin and its digital comments and Voice Comments--these are the levers that can radically help students in a way that no one is doing yet. This here--this is the future of reading and writing instruction. This is it!”