To Turnitin, or not Turnitin- that is the question…


In 2016, I entered as a joint Paper Coordinator for a third-year physiotherapy undergraduate module (Managing Complexity in the Community Environment). We inherited a paper that was very didactic in delivery and required the students to incorporate their collective knowledge on the module into one Summative Assessment as a written assignment. While the assignment had to be submitted to Turnitin for a review of plagiarism; students were also required to submit the same assignment to Blackboard for the purposes of marking. This seemed non-intuitive and open for error. Student reviews for the paper in 2015 were “average” to say the least, and as incumbent Coordinators, we agreed that we would utilise creative liberty to refresh the delivery and mode of assessment.


We gathered up the teaching team to discuss a new approach to the assessment. The teaching had been delivered by four lecturers- all with their own specialty. The purpose of the paper was to demonstrate complexity in common physiotherapy conditions. With the teaching being delivered by four key lecturers- all with their own specialty- it was proposed that we adopt a problem-based learning approach, which used complex case scenarios from the four key areas as a mode to assist complex clinical reasoning and consideration of interprofessionals. These cases were delivered in small group teaching to enable discussion and exploration of the scenarios- some of which included blended learning through a virtual environment (myself) to incorporate resources they would readily utilise when on clinical and graduation, as well as to promote “investigation” of the scene- rather than providing all clinical features for the students.. .

We also wanted to emphasise the importance of good clinical documentation- in particular- referral letters to interprofessionals. Our first summative assessment, therefore, included submission of a 1 1/2 page referral letter (with 1/2 page of endnotes) that was submitted to Turnitin (Appendix 1). By keeping the assessment relevant to the case scenarios presented in the small groups; the assessment clinically relevant; and also some creative license (i.e. students came up with their own letterheads; business name; digital signature: and logo)- it made it all manageable for students. By submitting once to Turnitin and utilising the available marking tools (including cut and paste; user strings, etc) it made for easy turn over of feedback to students which was then utilised for the second summative assessment (clinical reasoning regarding the content of the letter).

Impact on Assessment

So- this is where “To Turnitin” worked for us last year (2017):

  • Reflection on clinical problem-based learning
  • Rather than an “assignment”- assessment was relevant to a clinically useful skill that was not otherwise introduced (or assessed) in the programme (i.e. development of concise referral letters)
  • Develop consistent feedback strategies
    • Use of a Rubric for learning outcomes (Appendix 2)
    • Link comments in Turnitin directly to the learning outcomes
    • Use “QuickMarks” “Commonly Used in Turnitin
    • No information in the “User’s Comments” Section- feedback was to be provided “within” the assignment

This approach has been found to be successful by the teaching team, with the students quickly seeing the clinical relevance- rather than “just another assignment”.

In an effort to learn from other colleagues, discussions with the paramedicine team revealed that they have extended the assessment within Turnitin to using not only the audio feedback feature, though have included attaching a video (mp4) for feedback. This seems to have been well received by the students. It may be something that we need to consider for future use of Turnitin for our module; or to disseminate the effectiveness of the practice to others within our department at a staff meeting… (Appendix 3)

Appendix 1


Appendix 2


Appendix 3





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