Promoting Original Writing for Undergraduate Freshman and Graduate Nursing Students
Jennifer Schroeder, Assistant Professor
Schroeder uses Turnitin’s Originality Report to promote academic integrity, independent thought, and ethical reasoning for both undergraduate and graduate students. For Schroeder, teaching academic integrity is really about engaging students and having them take more ownership of their work.
Turnitin: Welcome to the Turnitin Educator Spotlight Series! My name is Kenneth Balibalos. Joining me today is Jennifer Schroeder, Assistant Professor at Millikin University and an Academic Integrity Winner for the Turnitin All-Stars Award Program. Welcome Jennifer, thanks for joining us today.
Could you tell us a little bit more about yourself?
J.S.: My name is Jennifer Schroeder, and I am currently an Assistant Professor of Biology at Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois, and I use Turnitin for pretty much all of the courses that I teach. I teach everything from introductory courses for students who are underprepared as they enter into college through freshman level biology courses, all the way through graduate nursing courses.
Turnitin: Broadly speaking, how do you use Turnitin in these different classes? Are there different approaches depending on if they are in an introductory course as compared to a graduate nursing course?
J.S.: Sure. We had a class at Millikin that is called “IN112: Edge.” This is a course that is geared towards students who might be underprepared as they enter into college. Either they’re first generation college students, or maybe they weren’t in the highest part of their class or may have had ACT difficulties. So, we try to offer them a little bit more assistance as they get on campus, both in getting incorporated into college life as well as learning a little bit more about our expectations of them.
One of the things we have done over the last few years with that course is to have an intensive writing workshop day with them where we work with them from 8:00 in the morning until 5:00 at night, teaching them what it is to write a college paper. I have used Turnitin, especially the Turnitin Plagiarism Spectrum White Paper for this group, because they don’t understand what plagiarism is. Many of them have gotten into the habit of looking up sources on the internet. Wikipedia is one of the biggest ones. And, they’re used to a sort of cut and paste method. Either they don’t understand what plagiarism is and so they think that they can just simply copy, paste and throw Wikipedia at the end of the sentence, or they have not had to learn how to properly paraphrase.
So, I use the examples and basically walk them through the white paper and try to show them how some of the techniques they’ve been using throughout high school may not actually be appropriate techniques for writing a college-level paper, or even probably a high school-level paper. So, we spend quite a bit of time on that, looking through those and pointing out mistakes that they might make in their work. And then, the students then begin to do a very light version of a research paper where they have a topic and they have to find resources and then learn how to incorporate properly some quotations into their papers.
Turnitin: What factors drove you to create this course in a low-pressure environment?
J.S.: With the graduate students that I teach, they’ve been out in the workforce for five, sometimes ten to fifteen years. So, there’s a disconnect between what they were used to doing and what the current expectations are in terms of research. I found when I first taught that course that they really just didn’t understand because research had changed so much since they had last done it.
One of the things I do for that class is a case study where we give them information about a patient, and then they need to support the way that they would react to or treat the patient with information from the literature. The first couple of times students do that they’re very likely to just go to a source and copy it word for word and throw a citation at the end of that. That’s extremely inappropriate for the nursing profession, because they need to really learn how what they’re doing applies to their field.
Using Turnitin really helps them learn how to paraphrase, because the more they see how to put things in their own words, the more they’re going to retain the information. So, I have them submit all of their case studies through Turnitin and then encourage them to go back and look at exactly why things may have been highlighted as similar to other sources.
And I think that’s really important, and I think if there’s anything, I wish the students would do that more. I’ve tried to incorporate that more and more into classes through adding more rough drafts of papers so that they can actually really see and learn what they need to change in the future to reduce the amount of plagiarism, whether intentional or unintentional.
Turnitin: Could you expand on that point? Why is academic integrity important, especially as it relates to their specific field?
J.S.: I try to express to them that what they’re doing in my class applies to everything, because regardless of what they’re doing, they’re going to need to be able to put their experiences or the work that they’re doing at work in their own words. They wouldn’t want somebody copying off of their work, and so they shouldn’t be copying off of somebody else’s. I see that the students are really good at putting their own thoughts into their own words, but when it comes to looking up information from maybe sources that they’re not as familiar with, say in my non-majors biology courses, they’re not used to the terminology, they don’t maybe know as much about how to rephrase the texts that they’re reading.
So by incorporating things like draft revisions, I can have them look at things and I can sit there and either put notes in there or simply print out the originality summaries on Turnitin and go over it with the students. Especially when students have a higher percentage of similarity on Turnitin, I try to have them come in for a private meeting with me. It’s a work in progress, and as long as they make an effort to make changes, everything ends up being okay.
Turnitin: Do you have any specific examples or assignments of how you try to promote original thought in your class?
J.S.: The students are actually given a prompt the night before, and it’s normally a fairly general prompt. Over the past few years, we have used Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture. One of the themes throughout that book is brick walls and how to overcome brick walls. Then during that entire workshop day, we work on trying to figure out what college brick walls might be.
They’re given an article that talks about challenges for college students, and then they need to use that as well as find other resources--at least one. I encourage them to find a couple that either find similar challenges or maybe challenges that are more applicable to them. Our student athletes, for example, might be taking a much heavier course load than they’re used to, or they’re not sure how to balance out studying versus their workout requirements for their sport. Then, they need to find some sort of research that they can incorporate that allows them to see that that’s not a brick wall unique to them, that that happens for all student athletes.
So, we work on how to then find a quotation, a phrase, something within that reference that they can then incorporate and then elaborate on in their own words and incorporating as much of their own personal experiences, fears and challenges—as much as possible--into the paper. It makes the idea of a college research paper a little less intimidating, because there’s so much of their own personal information they put in it as well.
Turnitin: How has Turnitin and using Turnitin helped you in meeting your various students with where they are at?
J.S.: It gives me a jumping off point to really start the conversation with them. Because so many of the students--if they don’t have experience and they don’t know where to go--if you just say “don’t plagiarize,” they don’t understand what that means. So if I have a rough draft of a paper that they’ve worked on and I have them submit it to Turnitin, I can then sit down with the student and say, “Okay, here you did a really good job on. This is an area you need to work on a little bit more. What’s a better way to phrase this?” And, I’ll try to sit there with them and come up with a couple examples of what they’ve done and different ways to phrase or cite so that they don’t then just have to go off blindly on their own and try to fix it all. And when they can visualize it, especially with the colored highlighting, it makes a world of difference.
Turnitin: One of the last questions I had for you is just what is the importance of academic integrity and what do you tell your students? Why is it so important?
J.S.: On a college campus, we try to promote independent thought and ethical reasoning. We want them to become a better person while they’re here. And without academic integrity, you can’t have that. We want students to be proud of the work that they’ve done, and I want them to gain knowledge and grow as an individual as they go throughout the course. Otherwise, an assignment is simply meaningless busywork.
I always show where students have had blatant errors, and the students sit there and you can see the light bulb go on, and they go, that’s not who I want to be. So using Turnitin and having examples to show them and then going through their own work, they really have something in the end that they can be proud of and they can realize that they did learn and they did grow through the experience.
Turnitin: Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience with us. I’ve been talking to Jennifer Schroeder, Assistant Professor at Millikin University.