Exploring intentional use of a technological proxy, Turnitin, to enhance student academic literacy practices

Joanne Orlando, Jose Hanham, Jacqueline Ullman


Current pedagogical practices have seen the rapid spread of technological tools that carry out tasks on behalf of the learner; we use the term technological proxy to refer to these tools. A popular technological proxy used by students worldwide is a text-matching software called Turnitin. Turnitin alerts users to sections of an assignment that appear to match materials that exist in some other published or previously submitted form. This paper reports on a small case study that examined how university students use Turnitin and the implications its use has on their academic literacy practices. Drawing on theories of intentional learning, achievement goal orientation theory, and self-efficacy theory, we applied think-aloud protocols and focus groups to elicit data on students’ interpretation and use of Turnitin feedback. Results show that the majority of students used the proxy with a performance goal orientation that focused on achieving a low similarity index. This dominating goal orientation is attributed to students’ low self-efficacy for using the program, and the university’s positioning of the program as a plagiarism tool. Hands-on experience with Turnitin contributed to a shift in using the program with intentionality.


Intentional learning, motivation, Turnitin, Goal theory

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14742/ajet.3575