Engaging students while avoiding plagiarism

Turnitin helped one school crack down on student plagiarism.
Turnitin helped one school crack down on student plagiarism.

Mt. Olive High School is a large, diverse public school in New Jersey that experienced a unique problem with plagiarism. Student collaboration at times led to paper-sharing among students—and administrators and educators knew they needed a system to check student assignments for plagiarism.

Danielle Kulawiak teaches 112 students at Mt. Olive High. Many are in her honors and college prep language arts courses. “What we were finding at our school was very little plagiarism from the internet—it was from our own students sharing papers,” Kulawiak says. “Now we require all papers to be submitted through Turnitin.”

After successfully implementing and benefiting from Turnitin’s OriginalityCheck service, Kulawiak and some of her colleagues decided to implement the entire Turnitin solution by adding GradeMark to grade papers digitally and PeerMark to let students give each other feedback.

For a recent research paper, Kulawiak’s students used the PeerMark discussion boards for an online brainstorming session. Students were up all night on Turnitin instead of on Facebook.

“They loved it because it had the Facebook feel for them,” says Kulawiak. “I was thrilled with that. They were having a really good time, and there was a lot of excellent insight that led to better quality papers.”

“In class, not everyone gets to be heard,” she says, “but by using PeerMark they had time to think through their ideas and say what they wanted without feeling pressured to speak in one 55-minute class with other people vying to participate.”

After students submit rough drafts through Turnitin, Kulawiak engages them in the writing process.

“I did an online session where I marked up their papers and had them resubmit a second draft for peer review,” she explained.

Kulawiak found it a plus to be able to develop her own peer review questions and rubric that aligned with “very specific things I wanted them to look at for the assignment.”

The kids were overwhelmingly positive about the experience. “They liked the feedback from me, and the feedback from their peers,” Kulawiak says, “and since it was completely anonymous, they were more at ease to give realistic feedback.”

GradeMark enables Kulawiak to give her students immediate feedback, speeding up the evaluation process. “Students are happy to have their papers back in about a week,” she says, “instead of two or three weeks it takes without Turnitin. I can take my laptop to the coffee shop, drink a coffee and grade papers without carrying around a huge stack of papers.”

Using Turnitin has made everyone more productive, she added. “My success rate of students actually turning in papers has gone to nearly 100 percent since I’ve been using Turnitin,” Kulawiak says. “It eliminates a lot of excuses: no more ‘I didn’t have paper, I didn’t have toner, my printer jammed.’”

Kulawiak says she’s thrilled with her classroom workflow now.

“It’s just made my work so much better. Anything that gets my students enthusiastic about the writing process is good for me. When students come in excited, I’m a very happy teacher.”

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