Renee Bangerter: Getting Students to Write and To Turn It In!

Aug 12, 2010 by

Michael F. Shaughnessy – Plagiarism seems to be such a threatening word for students, and if we maintain a policing attitude toward plagiarism, the students’ fears will prevent them from learning what plagiarism is and how to avoid it.

Michael F. Shaughnessy
Eastern New Mexico University
Portales, New Mexico

1)      Professor Bangerter, what kinds of courses do you teach and what are your writing requirements?

I teach five sections of composition, from transfer level to basic skills.  My requirements for my transfer students are to mainly write analysis and argument with their own observations and opinions but to pull in expert voices for ethos.

2)      How do you cope with students who may have learned MLA, APA, ACA and all these different styles and seem to be resistant to change?

I do not run into many students with adequate skills in documentation styles.  Often students have heard the term MLA and APA yet have no concept of what those acronyms stand for nor why they are relevant to student writing.

3)      Now, increasingly faculty are asked to put classes on line. Some students have trouble however, sending their writing as an attachment. How do you handle?

My students, regardless of level, submit their materials online for my courses.  I have them submit all written assignments to my Turnitin inbox.  In fact, I teach mainly face to face but collect papers from students online.  For students who have difficulty understanding how to upload papers, I provide a hands-on practice in a lab.  As I have also done, instructors can provide students a link to the online walk-through video for submitting to Turnitin.

4)      When, and where, and who is responsible for teaching about plagiarism?

Plagiarism seems to be such a threatening word for students, and if we maintain a policing attitude toward plagiarism, the students’ fears will prevent them from learning what plagiarism is and how to avoid it.

Students should understand what plagiarism is even in the later elementary school years because regardless of whether or not teachers require outside research, students equate writing with searching the internet for information.  Thus, they need to have adequate skills for integrating sources in writing at an early age.

Plagiarism, however, cannot merely be taught once.  It has to be addressed at all levels and across all subjects that require written assignments.  I emphasize again, however, that plagiarism should be taught at all these levels/courses, not simply policed.

5)      What about students who simply do not understand the need to cite and reference?

Most students do not understand the need to cite and reference, nor how to do so. Students need instruction on the purpose of citing sources, the concept of academic integrity and why it is important in education, especially higher education.  One way to emphasize the need for citing the work of others is to provide students with appropriate feedback on their sourcing as they are writing assignments that contain research.  Turnitin, for example, helps the students recognize visually what material they can’t use as their own.  They way I do this is by allowing students to see their own originality report and make changes to their papers based upon that feedback.  Using the Originality Report in this way creates student awareness to help them determine exactly how to ethically integrate outside sources.  It also improves their understanding of the need for proper summary, paraphrase, or quote and citations.

6)      When should SERIOUS writing start? Middle school? High School? And how do principals ensure that it gets done?

According to the common core standards as well as individual state standards, writing that requires research and source documentation occurs around the sixth grade.  When schools implement Turnitin, schools would have reliable data that illustrates these standards are being met.  Turnitin’s “Results” tab on their web page illustrates how various national and state standards can be facilitated with Turnitin.

7)      Simple question- about how many pages (either double or single spaced) should the average high school student be writing in freshman year? Sophomore, junior and senior?

The amount of student writing is not as important as the quality of student writing, and more importantly, the quality of the feedback that the student receives on his or her writing.  I have had students tell me that some instructors in their earlier grades never read the students’ entire essays because of time.  Students need formative feedback throughout the process of writing as well as evaluative summative feedback on the final assignment.

8)      What resources are out there for English instructors who are under the gun to do remediation as well as teach good writing skills?

There are several great Web 2.0 resources for instructors to engage students in writing activities.  Furthermore, the digital element helps students focus less on the final product and more on the activity of writing.  Bubble.us and Gliffy are web applications that help students create digital pre-organizers, such as bubble maps.  Inspiration software is a subscription many colleges own for that same purpose.  But perhaps the single most important resource for student writers is each other.  By engaging in collaborative peer review activities (and as experts in writing suggest), students learn writing by discussing writing in the act of writing.  Any program that engages students in collaborative review, such as through Google Docs, or paid subscriptions like Turnitin’s PeerMark, can enhance student writing and improve their experience of giving and receiving feedback.

9)      What is Turnitin and how do you use it?

Turnitin is an online subscription service that helps instructors manage written assignments and provide more valuable feedback on student writing.  Through the service, students see the improvements they can make in their writing through various forms of feedback: OriginalityCheck, PeerMark, and GradeMark.  OriginalityCheck provides feedback on how well the student has integrated outside source material in the assignment and this feedback can be provided to students multiple times throughout the writing process.  Likewise, students can engage in frequent and early rounds of peer review through PeerMark.  GradeMark enables the instructor to efficiently deliver substantial meaningful feedback through online mark-ups and comments to the student.

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