Improving Student Writing with Turnitin

Feedback and formative evaluation during the learning process are two of the most powerful factors leading to higher student outcomes (see John Hattie's ranking for more detail). Feedback on writing is especially important for students to become great writers. But giving detailed feedback on 100 student papers in a timely matter can be overwhelming!

Turnitin is a digital tool designed to streamline the more time-consuming parts of feedback on student writing, so you can focus your feedback on the specific elements you're looking for. Based on teacher requests, we purchased Turnitin licenses for all middle and high school students in Roaring Fork Schools this year. Turnitin is integrated into Schoology, so you don't have to set up classes, create accounts, or worry about another password. You can start using it today!

When should I use Turnitin?

My main advice with Turnitin is that you use it with rough drafts, not final drafts, so students can learn from the feedback and incorporate it into their writing. We know students often ignore feedback when it is accompanied by a grade, and that feedback is most valuable when students have an immediate opportunity to use it to improve their writing. So let's use Turnitin to improve student writing between rough and final drafts, rather than use it to comment on work when it's too late to fix it.

What does Turnitin do?

Turnitin has four main tools, which are layered on top of each other so you can use them all on each student paper:

  1. Originality Check helps reduce plagiarism and increase original work. It scans student writing and compares it to everything on the web, plus all papers ever submitted through Turnitin. 
  2. ETS e-rater helps improve student grammar, spelling, and usage. When enabled by the teacher, it scans student writing and inserts automated feedback on grammatical and other errors, with links to a writing handbook with explanations.
  3. PeerMark is a peer review tool that allows the teacher to anonymously and randomly distribute student papers throughout a class, so students can answer prompts to give each other formative feedback on their writing. 
  4. Grademark is a teacher-feedback tool that allows you to click and drag common comments onto student writing, and type directly on student papers.
Note: Turnitin also has rubrics and an audio-recording tool, but Schoology also has those features.

How can I get started with Turnitin?

To use Turnitin, you have to create an assignment in Schoology using the Add Materials>Add External Tool option. The video below shows each step in the process.

Note: The Turnitin 'app' on the left sidebar in Schoology has been phased out and is no longer available. The only way to use Turnitin this year is to create an assignment as shown here.

How do students submit a Google Doc for a Turnitin assignment in Schoology?

Basically, they just click on the assignment, click Upload assignment, then click 'More Options' to access their Google Drive. You can show this video in class or attach it to your assignment so they know exactly what to do.

How do students view their feedback?

The main thing to remember is that students can't see any feedback until the due date and the feedback release date both pass. So, if students say they can't see your comments or the other feedback, check that those dates and times have passed. You can change them any time to make it work. Also, students won't see the grammar feedback unless you have clicked on each paper and reviewed it yourself

Here's a video you can use to show students how to review their feedback once it has been released:

What if I need help with Turnitin?

Email Ben Bohmfalk and I will be happy to support you. I recently visited Adam Carballeira's English 1 class at RFHS to help ensure that his first PeerMark assignment worked well, and I would love to visit your class when you're using Turnitin as well. I can also add myself to one of your courses in Schoology, submit a paper for your Turnitin assignment, and help you test it out from the teacher and student perspective, before using it with your classes.


  1. Ben- This is a great resource. Can I use this video to help students understand how to view/use the feedback?

    1. Of course! I'm glad you find it useful.


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