Make an Impact with Class Stats
Guest classroom practices blog post written by Tony Russell, English Professor at Central Oregon Community College
I make full use of Turnitin’s QuickMarks and Audio Comment features, but nothing has had a greater impact on my students than the Class Stats feature. With Class Stats, I can identify patterns of both concern and progress, and I find that students value both.
More than a Hunch
As instructors, we notice patterns in our students’ writing. In my freshman composition courses, for example, I might notice that my morning class struggles with commas after introductory elements, or I might find that one of the most common errors on annotated bibliographies is that students forget to put their sources in alphabetical order. But largely, these reflections are hunches—informed, I’d-put-my-money-on-it hunches, but hunches all the same. With a Class Stats report, I can identify these trends, using my trusty QuickMarks. If you haven’t used QuickMarks before, Turnitin offers a legion of useful flags, covering everything from faulty parallelism to a missing comma, but you will likely create and refine your own marks, which is another excellent feature of QuickMarks. Once you’ve made your marks, Class Stats keeps track of them and produces a list of the marks you gave—including the ones you created on your own—and the number of times you gave them.
Top Five Errors, Acknowledging Successes
When I first started using Class Stats, I looked only at the items I marked the most. Then during class, I would then write “Top Five Errors” on the board, and for each section I taught, I would discuss what each class needed to work on, answer questions, and suggest places to go for more help. While some students reported on their evaluations that they liked the “Top Five” exercises, I felt like something was missing, that Class Stats could possibly do more. So during another term, I collected the Class Stats after each paper and wondered, nervously, if things got worse from paper to paper or if they really—as I so wanted to believe—got better. What I found was that while some things remained problematic throughout the term, many others improved—so much so that I wasn’t marking any of them at the end of term. And even the problematic items got better.
How I Do It
My current practice for freshman composition is to track Class Stats from paper to paper and to identify both the Top Five Errors and all of the QuickMarks where the class improved. For improvements, I figure out a percent decrease, and as a class, we celebrate our collective victories. I have found that this activity helps me to address common errors while at the same time building a sense of enthusiasm, confidence, and camaraderie in the classroom. Even if you only use Turnitin for a single paper each term, string the Class Stats for a couple of those terms together, and you have a sense that is stronger than any hunch. Only two papers? Use the Class Stats from first paper to give students an idea about how they can improve before the next paper.
What I’d Like to See
There are some limitations to this method, and much of this operation, I confess, is a pen and paper one. But interlaced with my dreams of sugar plums, I see a Class Stats tool that has the ability to track QuickMarks from paper to paper. (Right now, Class Stats, no matter which paper you click, will only provide a total of the QuickMarks you have given. Thus the pen and paper.) And graphs. Graphs would be nice. What about those commas after introductory elements? Is the class improving on that? Is the most common error on an annotated bibliography putting the sources in alphabetical order? (For reference, in my classes, it’s not.) Students and instructors need to see these trends. They really are an excellent tool that builds confidence in students and instructors alike. So as Christmas in July approaches, my wish is for a more powerful Class Stats utility.