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Earle Abrahamson
Senior Lecturer, University of East London

​As a Senior Lecturer in Sports Therapy at the University of East London, UK, Earle Abrahamson teaches in a very practical subject area where students often struggle with the concepts of academic writing. Earle uses Turnitin to model good academic writing for his students enabling them to understand that feedback is integral to the learning process and not merely a by-product.

“It’s reinforcing how students can improve, and more importantly, transform the way they think and learn. Turnitin provides a wonderful platform for actually showing students what good writing is.”

Earle Abrahamson, Senior Lecturer

Here Earle offers some tips on how Turnitin can be used to enhance the feedback process and develop feedforward mechanisms to optimise students’ learning and academic development:

Use a RAG traffic light system when feeding back to students. This can be achieved through either developing in-text green, yellow, or red light comments, or by providing end of text feedback containing comments under different light headings.

  • Green light comments illustrate areas of good writing and sound argument development. The assessor uses these comments to encourage the student to consider using more of this writing style throughout the assigned submission.
  • Yellow light comments are used to highlight areas of development, wherein the student has previously made errors. These comments are used to aid development and ultimately convert yellow into green light comments.
  • Red light comments are used to illustrate at risk areas that present problems in reading and comprehending written text. These comments serve to emphasise how writing can be rearranged or orchestrated differently to present a tighter/smarter account of the issue. Students are given the opportunity to work with the university’s writing team to transform any at risk areas.

These comments punctuate the text and be differentiated against levels of learning. The comment lights could be used with a rubric so that students learn to develop their work. Too often the focus is on content specific writing within the disciplines. Turnitin provides useful additional tools to help students develop their skills. Modelling of what is needed to succeed is a useful strategy to engage students with their work.

This system has proved highly effective in improving students’ academic writing capabilities:

“We have about 45 students on our first-year course, and with the initial piece of writing, most of them were receiving red comments, and were at risk. What we found in the last piece was that at least 70% of those students had changed between three and four red comments into green, so they were moving forward.“

Earle Abrahamson, Senior Lecturer

2. Publicise what good writing is. Use student work, with their permission, to show other students what good writing is. Building on from the first tip, the green light comments could be organised into a catalogue of writing examples. Students could access these during their writing to consider how writing develops and what specific writing skills are needed to ensure that the sentence being written makes sense and follows a logical structure. Students tend to appreciate reviewing and/or viewing other students submissions. Learning with, and from, peers is a powerful learning technique. Examples of student work could also be published on the institution’s LMS platform.

Use multiple channels for feeding back to students. Turnitin has an audio record tab. A short focused audio file, makes the feedback more personal and students tend to relate to the way in which the feedback is delivered. Focus on what the student is doing well, and then consider how they could improve their work. Think carefully about how the feedback is being received and the reason for feeding back.

Use subtle background music during the audio feedback. Background music creates another listening channel and can be inviting for students. However the choice of music or background sounds needs to be carefully considered. The aim is to enhance the feedback not detract from it.

5. Give students the opportunity to reflect upon their feedback and ask them to provide comment on the level and depth of the feedback they receive. It is important to ask students how they intend to use the feedback to improve their work. This interactive process has proved to be highly motivating for Earle’s students:

“They write to me telling me what feedback they need or would appreciate. So they may write: “I’m not worried about the content but I would really appreciate feedback on the way I’m writing this so that I can improve.” So we have a two-way process. So it’s not just me giving them a judgement on their work; it’s about how they become empowered and responsible for the work they hand in.”

Earle Abrahamson, Senior Lecturer