Sarah Henderson

Enhancing the Effectiveness of Individual Writing Conferences with Turnitin

Sarah Henderson, English Teacher
Loma Linda Academy


Sarah Henderson describes how she uses Turnitin to enhance the effectiveness of writing conferences, provide detailed and targeted feedback, and enhance student engagement.

Turnitin: Welcome to the Turnitin Educator Spotlight Series. I’m joined today by Sarah Henderson, an English professor at Loma Linda Academy. Welcome Sarah, thanks for joining us today. Could you tell us a little bit more about yourself?

S.H.: Okay. My name is Sarah Henderson, I teach English at Loma Linda Academy in Southern California and I teach mostly junior and senior English classes.

Turnitin: Ok, and with regard to your use of Turnitin, how have you been using it, and in what ways has it been addressing weaknesses in student writing?

Turnitin--the fact that it shows me if they’ve seen their papers--is really convenient because I can see that they’ve spent some time on it and it really improves our conferences because they’ve worked through some of those things and come up with some questions.
Sarah Henderson, Loma Linda Academy

S.H.: We’ve been using it for quite some time here at Loma Linda. It’s been very successful for us. When it comes to the originality reports, it eliminates that conversation of “this doesn’t look like your work or I don’t think this is you” and you don’t even have to have that conversation. You can just say, “this is not acceptable” and you can go from there. So there’s no, “did you do this or did you not”. So it really clears that up. It helps the students who feel accountable. They start to understand a little bit more in the system. You can have conversations about why this matters and why it’s important to see their work because everything is on the Internet. There are quite a few people who are posting things or written things that have been doing this for their career and they sound fantastic. But I don’t care about that. I want to see what they (the students) can do and to have that conversation is very important—for them to understand why this matters and why we don’t find that (plagiarism) acceptable. And not just (limited to) the stealing angle. I think they understand that. The other angle is what they’re showing me about their capabilities, I think. It’s an important conversation to have.

Turnitin: So are you mainly using OriginalityCheck or GradeMark as well?

S.H.: I use both and I also use PeerMark as well. I’ve used the General Comments and the composition marks are great. The ability to add your own is fantastic because you can drop those in and they can get further information. One of the things that I do with the GradeMark is that I have an extra step after the final draft where I allow them to go into the GradeMarked paper, look at the errors on their paper and I give them a correction form which is mostly a blank form and they can choose errors and they don’t have to rewrite the whole paper. They can pick the errors, put them on the form and fix just the errors and so, it gives them one extra step and they can earn points doing that. It helps them to see the mistake and also how to fix it and to hopefully never make that mistake again. It’s sort of part of that learning process. So that’s a great advantage of that GradeMark, where they really go in and they can see the details and read about passive voice or they can read about a comma splice and other sorts of the more complex thing for them at this level. And they can understand why it matters and also how to fix it and then hopefully never do it again.

Turnitin: Could you talk a little more about that? Why is it so important to have that extra step? What is it about student writing that requires you to do that detailed instruction?

S.H.: It’s a process. They have so much to learn and there are so many variables when it comes to writing that they can feel very overwhelmed.

Turnitin: Yeah, so on your end, how has Turnitin enhanced your ability to provide feedback as an instructor. Are you still doing individual conferences? What have you done differently with Turnitin?

S.H.: A couple of things. For individual conferences, I require that they look at their paper . So, Turnitin will tell me that they looked at their paper. They’ve looked at my notes and we can sit down and have a conference and I require them to come with a question. So, one question—something that you didn’t understand about the notes or something you didn’t understand about the grammar suggestion or whatever it might be. So, they come to the conference a little prepared for that and we can discuss those things in detail and they’ve had a chance to look it over beforehand. So, Turnitin, the fact that it shows me if they’ve seen their papers is really convenient because I can see that they’ve spent some time on it and it really improves our conferences then because they’ve worked through some of those things and come up with some questions.

And the nice thing about the QuickMarks is that you drop them in. They’re ready to go. Students can easily see them and look for more information or they can click on the handbook to read more about it and when they go to make their corrections, they really understand it a lot better because if I was doing that by hand with all the papers that I grade, I wouldn’t give that much information. I would say, “you need a comma here” and I may not explain it or this is a comma splice. So, for them to have more information, the ability to look it up…that’s huge for them. I don’t know that they know that because they just see it this way but I know it on my end that they’re getting a more detailed response than I can do (by hand) because of time constraints. So, it really speeds up things on my end.

Turnitin: Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience with us. I’ve been talking to English teacher, Sarah Henderson from Loma Linda Academy.