Cindy Garraway

Engaging Students with Turnitin’s Peer Review in a Technology-Rich Classroom

Cindy Garraway, Language Arts Teacher
Sandra Day O’Connor High School


With the advent of a new iPad pilot program at her school, Cynthia Garraway is now able to use Turnitin more collaboratively than in the past. Taking advantage of the accessibility and ease that the iPads offer, students use PeerMark to comment on each other's papers, do collaborative self-reflection assignments, and learn how to be more engaged with thinking critically about their own and each other's work in the process.

Turnitin: Welcome to the Turnitin Educator Spotlight Series! Joining me today is Cindy Garraway, Language Arts teacher at Sandra Day O’Connor High School and a Grading & Feedback Honorable Mention for the Turnitin All-Stars Award Program. Welcome Cindy, thanks for joining us today.

Could you tell us a little bit more about yourself?

C.G.: My name is Cindy Garraway, and I teach English/Language Arts, and regular seniors at Sandra Day O’Connor High School, and I also teach a dual enrollment Communications 100 class.

Turnitin: Could you walk me through Turnitin’s place in your classroom? What are some approaches, strategies, and examples of how you use Turnitin and how it helps your students?

Turnitin has allowed myself as an instructor to give feedback in a way that positively impacts growth. I'm able—through Turnitin—to freely give feedback that celebrates their strengths. I can provide a framework for improvement through rubrics, through my general comments, through their own self-reflection, and through a peer's self reflection. That's the beauty of Turnitin.
Cindy Garraway, Sandra Day O’Connor High School

C.G.: I have all my students submit their papers in Turnitin to check originality first. Once they turn in their essay for the grading, I use the whole gamut of Turnitin features, from the ETS grading to creating my own list of QuickMarks that I use for myself. I can personalize this even more with the voice comments, which I started to use as soon as it came out. Those three minutes are beautiful; I have three minutes to give them my feedback. I pause the recording, look at their essay, and comment. Students are getting that one-on-one with me--but not having to be with me to get that, which I find is absolutely amazing.

And then, PeerMark has been amazing. At my school, we’re tech-rich--we have a pilot program this year, and I’m one of the few teachers whose kids just got iPads. So, all of my four regular senior classes have iPads. We are doing everything online. Before--if you’d have an essay for peer review--you’d pass it around, and the kids would not know what to look for. Even with guided questions, the students were a little lost, and they didn’t really give a lot of feedback. But put them in front of a device of any manner, and they think it’s fun being the teacher. They’ll go on and give feedback on the other students’ essays. They find it fun to be able to type in their own comments, and it’ll pop up on their paper during the PeerMark. They love that.

Last week, instead of actually doing a PeerMark, I had students do their own self review of their own narrative formatives. They answered questions and then found different passages from their own writing to support whatever question I was asking. I really feel that they are prepared for the summative—this assessment that we’re giving on Monday—largely due to the reflection that they did on their own work.

Turnitin: Now with a new pilot program with the iPads, how are you incorporating Turnitin into your classroom? Has it changed the way that you instruct your students or the classroom workflow, and how has it helped your students?

C.G.: Well, with the pilot program at my school and all the students getting an iPad mini, it really has allowed the time for students to work in the classroom and not outside of the classroom to collaborate with each other in Turnitin. This essay that I just assigned--it was a partner essay where they had to work together--and one person actually uploaded it to their account in Turnitin. Then, the students got together, and they were able to reflect upon the self review. Having computer access is key, because Turnitin is on the computer, and it’s hard to get into the computer labs here. So I have found--just in this semester--because my students received their iPads in January that I’ve already used Turnitin in a more collaborative way than I had in the past. Because they have their iPads in front of them, students are able to check their work and look at their feedback. In a perfect world, yes, a student would go home and go online and log in and check their feedback.

But I noticed, when I was going back and looking at some of my essays that had been submitted with comments, that I saw the little person icon pop up, which I absolutely love, because then I know that the student actually looked at my feedback. I notice that they all look at my feedback when they had to reflect on it, or if hey had to do a peer edit through PeerMark. So it’s just getting them using the program more where I know they’re using it in the classroom and in front of me.

Turnitin: It’s really interesting how you’ve talked about collaborative work. What are some questions that you ask them in doing peer reviews? What has that enabled your students to do that they’ve traditionally not been able to do?

C.G.: Collaborative work, I feel, is super important in a language arts classroom. Data has shown that students who write papers together improve their skill set, because they see what another person can do, and then they feed off of that, which builds and grows. So by collaborating in Turnitin, while they’re writing their essay on their pages—that program on their iPad— they’re easily able to import it into Turnitin. But, really where the collaboration comes into play is with the peer review through PeerMark. With collaborative work through Turnitin, PeerMark offers the opportunity for them to give an assessment of another student’s work.

I’ve used the peer review features in a couple of ways--where the two students are actually working together and looking at one piece together, like they just did, and alternatively when one piece is actually their own work. I love how I was able to determine whether it’s a scaled question, whether it’s an open-ended question, and so on. I was able to dictate how many words they had to include in their response and that allowed me to then refine what I was looking for--the type of feedback that I wanted them to give on their own personal work. I feel that students’ feedback has been a lot more focused, with much more elaboration in their comments, because they’re typing, and they like to do that a lot better than actually writing with their hand, and they’re able to, again, add those comments onto the paper, so they feel like they’re a teacher. They’re acting as a teacher and leaving those comments in the little bubbles that pop up into the paper. They take their time.

I was amazed when I used PeerMark a year or two ago, and the kids were quiet, but during the whole hour they were working. They worked until the end of class. They were completely immersed into the task and taking it seriously, and they knew that the feedback that they were giving obviously was impacting the person on the other end of their grade, but they just enjoyed the process as a whole. So, that allowed a couple of different levels of collaboration to take place there.

Turnitin: What has student feedback been like?

C.G.: When I think about the student feedback and how much Turnitin has actually affected students, I think about a time I gave them a survey in Google Docs, and in the open feedback comment one student wrote--this is taken directly from her comment—she said, “Thank you for all of the positive feedback on my writing assignments in Turnitin. It means a lot that you take the time to verbally share what has been done well and what needs improvement.” I know I couldn’t have done it with pen and paper, but I feel so much more freedom to give my comments about Turnitin because of the program and how much flexibility it offers me, and that’s why I love it so much. I think all teachers should be using it in the capacity of all the features that you offer.

Turnitin: As a final question, could you summarize why Turnitin has been so important for you as an instructor in being able to provide feedback?

C.G.: Turnitin has allowed me--as an instructor--the opportunity to give feedback in a way that positively impacts student growth. Students cannot grow if they don’t have feedback to reflect and improve upon, and through Turnitin I’m able to freely give feedback in a way that I can celebrate their strengths. I can create a framework for improvement through a rubric where they see the different score that was picked, through my comments, through their own self-reflection, through a peer’s self-reflection, so the feedback’s not only coming from the teacher, but it’s coming from all the other important people around them, themselves, their peers, and me. I think that’s the beauty of Turnitin.

Turnitin: Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience with us. I’ve been talking to Cindy Garraway, Language Arts teacher from Sandra Day O’Connor High School.