Bridging the Gap

The Challenge

John Thompson is Head of the Literature and Writing Department at the QSI International School in Sarajevo. He and his colleagues identified several challenges around plagiarism that needed to be addressed within their school.

Firstly, there was a gap between universities’ specific requirements regarding critical and original thinking and the way secondary education prepared their students for the transition to higher education. This John felt was key to developing students’ future academic success whilst also being an important factor for parents. Another challenge for John was dealing with inexperienced teachers when it comes to addressing plagiarism. Although they knew plagiarism in their classes was occurring, but they were unsure about how to address it effectively.

The Solution

Aligning the teaching methods in secondary education with the needs of higher education is John’s main goal. Knowing that a tool like Turnitin, which John had used when teaching in the United States can help students prepare for this transition, he championed the implementation at the school. John was tasked with putting together a training program for all of the teachers at the school to encourage usage and demonstrate the practical benefits of the tool in their classrooms. He also taught teachers that students need to understand the concept of original writing, creative thinking, and proper citation in order to equip them well for the transition to higher education, as he comments:

“The temptation to cheat is there, but the idea is to get that temptation out of the classroom and make it an environment where cheating is discouraged.”

The Results

In the 2014-2015 academic year QSI made over 500 student submissions to Turnitin. The originality average at the beginning of the year was around 22%, by the end it had dropped to about 12%. With John and his fellow teachers’ help students were clearly writing more original work, and had a better understanding of proper citation and how this improves their research process. And the numbers don’t lie: as early as in the second semester of using Turnitin, there were hardly any more plagiarism incidents.

He has also gained the support of the students’ parents who were initially sceptical about the use of Turnitin by explaining to them how the Turnitin Originality Report works, how it flags potentially unoriginal work, and how teachers at the school use the tool to promote original writing.

Use of Turnitin at the school is evolving, and after the initial emphasis on plagiarism detection and prevention, the tool is now also being used for online feedback and grading. What John likes the most about Turnitin is the paperless turnaround in the assessment and grading process:

“Turnitin also provides paperless grading. As a writing research teacher I probably have 30 papers about every six weeks; 30 papers, six pages, and that’s usually after two or three drafts. It saves a lot right there just electronically.”

Thanks to Turnitin, John is one step closer to closing the gap and aligning secondary education methods to higher education needs. Ultimately using Turnitin at the school has been a success on many levels:

“Turnitin is really an easy thing to use. It makes my life a lot easier.”

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