Nayena Blankson

Evaluating Student Work in Psychology with Turnitin

Nayena Blankson, Assistant Professor of Psychology
Spelman College


Whether in her Psychometrics or Developmental Psychology courses, Blankson uses Turnitin’s evaluation tools to provide specific feedback for students developing psychological tests and to facilitate a quicker, easier, and more effective way to drive instruction.

Turnitin: Welcome to the Turnitin Educator Spotlight Series! My name is Kenneth Balibalos. Joining me today is Nayena Blankson, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Spelman College and a Grading & Feedback Honorable Mention for the Turnitin All-Stars Award Program. Welcome Nayena, thanks for joining us today.

Could you tell us a little bit more about yourself?

N.B.: Okay. My name is Nayena Blankson. I'm currently an assistant professor at Spelman College. And, I am currently teaching Developmental Psychology, Psychometrics, as well as an honors seminar class in which students are working on their thesis proposals.

Turnitin: How are you using Turnitin to grade and provide feedback in your classes? What features have been valuable for you and your students?

Turnitin has eased the grading process because in my Psychometrics class, students are submitting weekly reading outlines. Students have to define key terms, summarize the main idea, write a self-reflection, and make connections between chapters. The features in Turnitin really facilitate the grading process by making things easier, quicker, and through giving personal QuickMarks.
Nayena Blankson, Spelman College

N.B.: I use the GradeMark features, and I use the QuickMarks. I use the general comments, and I also use rubrics. And with the QuickMarks, I mean they really are “quick marks.” It’s just a very appropriate name. It’s really a great timesaver. Throughout the years that I've been using Turnitin, I've developed my own set of QuickMarks. I've tended to teach the same classes for a while, and I've been given similar assignments, and I have noticed similar errors that students make. And so based on those errors, I’ll make a QuickMark and save it to my own individual set. In my own set, I've also brought in some of the standard QuickMarks, and so it really helps to facilitate giving students rich feedback.

I might leave a comment for the student where it says to come see me to talk more about this.I might explain it in the feedback in Turnitin, but then I also have them follow up with me. And another thing that’s something that I do is I’ll put a grade—a temporary grade of zero in the gradebook—because when students see a zero, that might draw their attention to try to find out why they got a zero, especially if they know that they shouldn't have gotten a zero. So sometimes I might leave that zero, and then in the comments I’ll let them know...okay this is what's going on, and I’d like you to come see me to follow up on this. The grade is just a temporary grade, until we’ve talked. And I can actually facilitate students coming to interact with the professor even more than they normally would have, and it helps enhance student learning, because they will come to see me, whereas otherwise they might not do that.

Turnitin: Within your specific classes, what are some of the types of weaknesses that you encounter in student writing, and what are some of the comments that you give or QuickMarks that you’ve created within the context of what you teach?

N.B.: Students make a lot of common errors that are in QuickMarks, such as not putting the apostrophe in “it’s” or putting it there when it doesn't belong. I use that QuickMark. Errors in “affect” versus “effect.” That’s one of the common errors that are made and then also the content.

So, I teach Developmental Psychometrics and the honors seminar. The Psychometrics class is more of a statistics type of class, and one really common error is students using data in a singular way. So they might say data “is” instead of data “are.” And so that’s a QuickMark that I made just to let students know whenever I see that “it’s data ‘are,’ it’s not data ‘is’.” One of the assignments that I have students do in my psychometrics class is reading outlines. And so as part of the reading outlines, they have to define vocabulary terms. And so if there are common errors that students are making in the vocabulary terms, then I make a QuickMark to explain that concept using the QuickMark. And then, I also have students submit it before class time. I'm able to address that common error in class as well as in the feedbacks.

Turnitin: Could you talk about how specific features in Turnitin help you save time grading?

N.B.: What are some of the assignments that you have and what is the type of feedback that you're giving them? Is it just merely general writing feedback?

So Psychometrics, the way that we teach it at Spelman is that it’s an advanced measurement class. So it has a lot of statistics in it, which is in contrast to some other institutions where it might be taught more like from a counseling perspective of teaching students how to administer tests. In this class, I teach students how to develop psychological tests. And so, part of the work that they do is to write their own test items. They administer the items to each other, collect data, and they’ll analyze the data and write a final report. And, the final report is what goes into Turnitin. So that final report includes a review of the background to support the development of the test that they decided to develop, and also they discuss the analysis that they conducted that includes things like tables in their final paper. And so, that's an example of one of the assignments that students complete in the psychometrics class.

I will provide the comments on the paper itself through GradeMark, and I also leave general comments. So if there are some really good things about the paper, I might write a general comment about different sections that the students might have done very well on. And, I can also comment on the sections that there might have been some misunderstanding and explain more about that misunderstanding. I also grade with rubrics. So, rubrics are included in that assignment. And so, students are getting the rubric feedback. They're getting the general comments. And they're also getting feedback directly in the paper itself.

Turnitin: In Psychometrics, what has Turnitin done for you? How has that helped you in your instruction?

N.B.: It has really eased the grading process, because in that class students are submitting weekly reading outlines. As I mentioned, some of those can be really lengthy. Students need to define key terms in the reading outline. They have to summarize the main ideas in the chapters. They have to write a self-reflection about their reading, as well as how the chapters are connected to each other. There could be about 25 reflections or so depending on the semester—sometimes there might be more students. So it can be a lot, but the features in Turnitin really facilitate the grading process by helping things to be easier and also quicker. The personal QuickMarks that I've created also ease the process. So it’s really helped, not just in that class, but in my other classes as well. Turnitin has helped in a similar way, so it really helps to save time and also to give the students better feedback, I think.

And then the rest of the time, I can spend actually focusing on what the possible errors or the good things that the student has done in the paper that’s relevant to the course itself. So, it allows me to give feedback to the student, so that’s really important.

Turnitin: Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience with us. I’ve been talking to Nayena Blankson, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Spelman College.