The use of AI in academic contexts has become a popular topic of discussion in recent months – even though AI as a field has existed since the 1950s and more complicated tools have been in existence since the 1970s. AI in general may not be a new field, but how students leverage AI in their coursework is changing in substantial ways. Like it or not, AI tools are here to stay and will continue to change. So what can we as faculty do with and about AI? And how can we help our students use it wisely?
Teaching Strategies from SCU Faculty
We’re navigating recent developments with AI in our classrooms at SCU. The Collaborative for Teaching Innovation hosted three demonstrations and conversations about Generative AI in Winter and Spring Quarters of 2023. Here’s a summary of a few key points from these discussions.
1) AI Tools Generate Information (but they don't analyze it, it may not be accurate, and they make stuff up)
AI tools like ChatGPT are large language models (LLMs) that scour the internet for information and make connections between words and phrases. ChatGPT, in particular, has been used to complete writing tasks, generate Excel-related prompts, draft lab reports, and do coding assignments quickly. They often lack the sophistication, details, critical perspective, and specificity to course content and contexts that we expect in excellent student writing. For example, it can explain theoretical concepts well (because of an abundance of texts on the topic online), but it cannot generate a deeper analysis of the theory. It also cannot draw information from non-text modalities like videos, nor can it, obviously, draw from non-internet sources, such as the nuanced and particular discussions that you and your students are having in class. Oftentimes, ChatGPT-generated writing is recognizable because of its use of repetitive phrases or stylistic constructions, and a lack of specific contexts. It’s worth talking with students about what ChatGPT can and cannot do: students are still learning about the affordances and limits of these technologies. So are we. So is everyone.
2) AI and Digital Pedagogy
When you are inclined to worry that the world of knowledge (and teaching and learning) is coming to an end, think about the use of new AI tools as an extension of already existing digital pedagogical practices. Digital pedagogy can look different depending on the instructor and their discipline: lectures may be paired with online research conducted by students to create a digital artifact. Faculty may use the “Designer” feature on PowerPoint to make their presentations more visually appealing without a lot of work. Faculty may allow or even encourage students to use Grammarly and other similar tools to check their writing. Faculty may also use such tools themselves. With the abundance of available digital tools faculty can set boundaries and expectations by talking to students about their use of generative AI tools. How do you expect students to use these tools (if at all)? Why? Can you imagine using generative AI tools to support student learning? Many faculty here and elsewhere are addressing these issues in syllabus statements and assignment prompts. As with many technological tools, talk to your students. Don’t assume they know what’s expected or appropriate.
3) Focus on Increasing Access and Equity
ChatGPT and similar AI tools can increase access to learning resources for students with diverse learning needs. Captioning, audio description, text-to-speech, and speech-to-text are examples of generative AI tools that support inclusive learning. Additionally, students who struggle with writing may benefit from using ChatGPT to help them develop their ideas or improve their writing. Collaboratively writing with ChatGPT, for example, may provide an initial structure for students to strengthen their positions, enhance and specify their arguments, integrate their own voice and perspective, or edit for clarity. Generative AI may help students reduce stress and spend more time engaging with course content to deepen their learning. Although Generative AI, including ChatGPT, may offer important assists to student learning, it cannot offer personalized support, mentorship, and the relational aspect of teaching and learning, which is fundamental to what we all do at SCU.
4) But What about Misinformation, Bias, and Academic Integrity?
As with any teaching tool, generative AI delivers both benefits and challenges. The latter includes issues of privacy, racism, and sexism (information is scoured from the internet after all), misinformation, fake citations, and even malicious content. Decades of research on academic integrity (apart from the use of AI) directs us away from an exclusively punitive approach and toward pedagogical practices that acknowledge what academic integrity looks like in our discipline. As a start, include specific statements in your syllabus and assignments about using AI (some examples are linked below).
Acknowledgements and Additional Resources
The Faculty Collaborative for Teaching Innovation would like to thank the speakers and SCU colleagues of the three ChatGPT/AI focused CAFE talks:
- Cynthia Alby (Professor, Teacher Education, Georgia College & State University)
- Matt Gomes (Assistant Professor, English, SCU)
- Denise Krane (Lecturer, English & Director, HUB Writing Center)
- Maya Ackerman (Assistant Professor, Computer Science & Engineering)
- Melissa Brown (Assistant Professor, Communication)
Here is a set of SCU student-generated guidelines for the ethical use of AI.
For more resources about teaching with AI, check out the following resources:
Page author: Lisa Chang
Last updated: June 9, 2023