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The recent revelations that ChatGPT can be used by students to write convincing essays and explanations is a frightening prospect for any teacher. With many exams and assignments now carried out online, there is ample opportunity for using AI writers.
While ChatGPT might seem at first glimpse like a gift to students, it is actually a sign that they need to up their game. Students will need to increase their synthesis of evidence, demonstrate critical thinking and show creativity just to stay ahead of AI during their studies and future employment.
ChatGPT plagiarism is the latest in a long line of methods that anxious students have been tempted by. There is a silk handkerchief cheat sheet on display in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts from the Qing dynasty in 1860, which was a similar approach to the one I spotted at secondary school, where students wrote notes on their forearms for GCSEs. As a lecturer, I had to work with two frightened students who panicked in an online exam and copied answers from each other, complete with mistakes and typing errors. The challenge ChatGPT presents is that it is hard to detect.
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Rather than viewing ChatGPT as a cheating tool, educators could choose to embrace it as a teaching tool. It gives students basic answers very quickly, freeing up class time for discussion, exploration and critical pedagogy. This dialogic approach develops the higher-order thinking skills that will keep our students ahead of AI technology.
Use ChatGPT to spur student’s inner feedback
One way that ChatGPT answers can be used in class is by asking students to compare what they have written with a ChatGPT answer. This draws on David Nicol’s work on making inner feedback explicit and using comparative judgement. His work demonstrates that in writing down answers to comparative questions students can produce high-quality feedback for themselves which is instant and actionable. Applying this to a ChatGPT answer, the following questions could be used:
- Which is better, the ChatGPT response or yours? Why?
- What two points can you learn from the ChatGPT response that will help you improve your work?
- What can you add from your answer to improve the ChatGPT answer?
- How could the assignment question set be improved to allow the student to demonstrate higher-order skills such as critical thinking?
- How can you use what you have learned to stay ahead of AI and produce higher-quality work than ChatGPT?
Set questions that test higher-order skills
A second way ChatGPT can benefit lecturers is to improve the questions we set so that students can understand them, and we can test higher-order skills. As lecturers we can use ChatGPT to test our questions, both to see if students can understand what we are asking and to confirm they are “ChatGPT” proof. It takes time and experience to work out how to phrase a question so that students can demonstrate higher-order skills, but by putting them in to ChatGPT we can test out our questions easily, with immediate ChatGPT responses.
For example, for the question “What is the role of accountants in today’s society?” ChatGPT can produce a comprehensive but basic answer. When asked “What would you recommend accountants need to do to shape their role in future society, drawing on Carnegie et al.’s 2021 definition of accounting as a technical, moral, and social practice?” ChatGPT can offer some relevant points but misses the main driver behind this definition of accountants and does not show specific recommendations.
Develop students’ future skills
Third, lecturers can help students develop their skills for the future by helping them frame questions for AI and apply professional scepticism to the AI response. Lecturers will need to teach students the context of the questions and main topical ideas before they are able to use AI effectively. For example, when asked about “burnout”, according to Emily and Amelia Nagoski, ChatGPT responded with general tips for self-care, whereas the main idea behind the Nagoskis’ work is that the cure for burnout is not self-care but all of us caring for each other. Lecturers can guide students in the key ideas so that they do not accept AI responses without context or scepticism.
ChatGPT is a great starting point for ideas for any scholar. It can be used to structure an answer, provide basic concepts and bring information together from across the internet on a specific subject. However, it is just a starting point. Humans need to stay ahead of AI skills for their work to be worthwhile, so lecturers need to embrace the technology as a timesaving tool that opens new opportunities. Lecturers are uniquely placed to help students learn to use AI effectively – both during their studies and in their future employment.
Jennifer Rose is a senior lecturer in accounting and finance at the University of Manchester.
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You can find more about David Nicol’s work in his THE Campus resource: Guiding learning by activating students’ inner feedback
Or download his introductory guide: Turning Active Learning into Active Feedback