Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Thoughts on the L4 Competence: Academic Writing for Adults

by Joan Travers

Recently, we asked SNL student Joan Travers to share some thoughts about her choice to take the Academic Writing for Adults course over the L4 Proficiency Exam. Her reflection follows:

One of the things SNL stresses to students in introductory classes is the writing intensive nature of the program. Not only do all the classes rely on writing as the primary form of expression and evaluation but so do the experiential ILP’s. This can be exceedingly intimidating to an adult returning to school, especially if that student hasn’t spent time writing in several years.

As a returning student myself, I found this to be incredibly daunting. At one of my first meetings at SNL, I was told that my writing skills were sufficient enough to take the L4 proficiency exam. And while I liked the price and the limited time commitment of the exam, I opted to enroll in Academic Writing for Adults. If such a high premium was placed on writing then I figured I could use the practice. Even if my skills were believed to be up to par, at least I would understand for myself the expectations actually needed for success in a class designed to concentrate solely on writing and the writing process.

Since I had a limited background in writing, having taken a few creative writing classes in the past, I was not completely comfortable with all my writing skills. I lacked the ability to write research papers and how to cite properly. Through taking this writing class, I was able to learn and practice some of these skills. I also grew confident in my abilities to express my ideas at a level necessary for SNL. And I learned techniques to help me overcome some of my apprehension I’ve always had about writing, like procrastination and proofreading.

As an assignment for the class, I tried my hand at writing my first ILP. I turned to my creative writing background and used some of the new skills and techniques I learned in the course to write a paper about my interaction with physical science and the environment during a skydiving experience I had. I started by writing about my experience as if telling the story or events, and then applied some technical research to explain the events. I used this as an opportunity to develop my research and citing skills, using the feedback I received from working with my writing teacher. The end product was not only an ILP I could submit for an additional class credit, but also an example that I have the ability and know-how to complete a satisfactory ILP.

So while this writing course took longer than a proficiency exam and cost a bit more, the benefits were invaluable. I learned new writing skills and got constructive writing practice, but ultimately I gained the confidence to be a competent student at SNL. This course helped me to write better, but also to manage my time better and to understand and respect the process of learning.

Click here to read Joan's skydiving ILP. Her essay, "My Skydiving Mishaps: A Quick Lesson in Physics," won a Writing Showcase award in 2010. She plans to graduate in 2011 with a Focus Area of Wilderness Education.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Deadline for Writing Showcase Entries is April 1, 2011

Please ask your students to submit their best written work to the SNL Writing Showcase by April 1, 2011. Students can see previous winners and download the 2010-2011 application here:

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

How Effective are Plagiarism Detection Services?

According to Debora Weber-Wulff at the University of Applied Sciences in Berlin, plagiarism detection software is not making the cut. She recently tested 26 plagiarism detection services, finding that the most effective services detected only 70% of plagiarism.

The top 5 systems were deemed "partially useful" and received a grade of C-:

1: PlagAware
2: Turnitin
3: Ephorus
4: PlagScan
5: Urkund

At the bottom of the list were the following "useless systems for education":

22: PlagiarismSearch
23: PlagiarismChecker
24: Grammarly
25: PercentDupe
26: ArticleChecker

The University of Applied Sciences in Berlin makes the following recommendation: "The focus should be on teaching students about plagiarism and how to avoid it instead of investing time in using software."

The test overview and summary can be found in English here:

Debora also writes a blog dedicated to plagiarism: