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Carter Payton
EFL Department, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, KAIST

 A Focus on Academic Writing Skills

Carter Peyton is a visiting professor in the EFL Department within the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at KAIST. As a leading science and technology institution, KAIST attracts students with strong science backgrounds whose main focus is not English. One of the EFL Department’s principal objectives is to equip students with the English writing skills that they need to engage with the international academic community and to one day publish in their fields.

Challenges in Providing Feedback and Addressing Academic Integrity

For Professor Peyton, feedback is an extremely important element in teaching students to become better writers. It guides them through the process of learning to write. But with hundreds of students turning in multiple drafts of up to five written assignments each semester, providing targeted, timely feedback is always challenging. It means not only a huge amount of marking, but also the organizational challenge of handling vast numbers of documents.

One of the issues that Professor Peyton has to address in his feedback is academic integrity. While his students generally understand the concept, he finds that “they’re not 100% sure what plagiarism actually is, what it looks like in real life.” Having to read through students’ papers, locate paragraphs or chunks of text that look plagiarized, and then search for them on the Internet or with an online program, is not good use of an instructor’s time. The more time instructors need to spend identifying plagiarized content, the less time they have to help students develop the skills to combat plagiarism.

Now that he uses Turnitin Feedback Studio, Professor Peyton can give more targeted feedback much more quickly. Using the integrated QuickMarks tool, he can rapidly mark students’ assignments by dragging and dropping commonly used editing marks and comments. He has also created his own sets of comments, which allow him to focus his marking on specific areas covered in class and to guide his teaching assistants in their marking. These comments, too, are added with a simple drag and drop. 

Professor Peyton makes use of other Feedback Studio tools to improve his marking efficiency as well. He color-codes his feedback depending on error type, so that he and his students can focus on specific issues and identify areas that need particular improvement. Additionally, he and his teaching assistants use different colors for their comments, so that it is clear who feedback is coming from. He uses Feedback Studio’s drafting features so that students’ original and subsequent drafts and feedback are kept in one, easily accessible online repository. This saves time, for both instructors and students, forces organization, and makes for easy collaboration between instructors and teaching assistants.

Overall, Professor Peyton feels that Feedback Studio has helped make his feedback more uniform. “It provides a level of scaffolding that a coding marking system would offer without having to teach the students codes, because there are colors and because it will say ‘grammar error’, or ‘syntax error’, or ‘rhetorical error’, or whatever my categories are,” he said. “And the comments are drag-and-drop, so I don’t have to write a paragraph for every comment.” 

Teaching—Not Just Testing—Academic Integrity 

Professor Peyton harnesses Feedback Studio’s Originality Checking feature to teach students about academic integrity. The tool checks students’ work for improper citation or potential plagiarism by comparing it against the world’s largest academic database, as well as against other assignments submitted by the student. So, Professor Peyton no longer has to do all this himself and has more time to spend on teaching. “It frees up so much time for more valuable instruction to the students,” he said.

Professor Peyton particularly values the formative aspect of the Originality Checking tool. Unlike other systems he has used, Feedback Studio’s focus is on helping students understand what plagiarism is and how to prevent it, not simply on identifying it. The tool shows which sections students should rephrase, and gives Professor Peyton the ability to add feedback on how this should be achieved, allowing him to target specific areas of weakness. “Instead of just saying ‘this is plagiarized’, it gives you the ability to build up individual skills to combat plagiarism, because I don’t have to spend that time identifying it, so it’s very helpful,” he said. 

Professor Peyton sees substantially less plagiarism in his students’ work thanks to Feedback Studio. Equipped with an awareness of academic integrity and the skills for achieving it, his students will be able to confidently take their place in the academic writing community.