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ChatGPT and other AI-based tools

Given the speed and scale at which artificial intelligence-powered tools can analyze data and identify patterns, artificial intelligence (AI) is already advancing human understanding in fields across the disciplinary spectrum. Tools that use AI to generate text or images are also supporting individuals, particularly those who struggle with executive functional skills, at various stages of the research, writing, or creative process. Inside and beyond the classroom, AI-based tools are creating efficiencies that help humans focus on deeper thinking.

These tools present instructors with both opportunities and challenges when it comes to teaching and learning.

Talking with students about AI

Many instructors are already integrating AI into their teaching. Others would prefer that students not use AI to complete assignments. Because AI tools are constantly evolving, it is very difficult to develop technology that can reliably identify when a student uses AI to complete an assignment. Thus, a policing approach to student use of AI has the potential to be both time-consuming and unsuccessful. Instead, it is important to help students understand the issues associated with AI and its relationship to learning in general and your class in particular.

The following strategies can help instructors think about how to communicate with students, set expectations, and design assignments that increase students’ motivation to develop their own skills and ideas.

  • Set expectations – Establish a policy for your course around the use of AI-based tools (e.g., ChatGPT) and communicate this with students through the syllabus and/or assignment prompts. Discuss how you will proceed if you discover that a student has turned in AI-generated work. Here are some sample syllabus statements you can use or adapt to help articulate your expectations for student use of AI in your course.
  • Communicate the importance of college learning – Many students are focused only on learning that seems related to their intended career track. However, the vast majority of them will change careers at least once in their lives. Talk with students about how the relevance of your course may only become apparent years from now. The skills they are learning will likely transfer to other careers – even careers that do not yet exist!
  • Acknowledge that struggle is part of learning –  Talk with students about how intellectual struggle is an inherent part of learning. Learning happens only when we move outside what we already know. Seeking a shortcut or workaround through AI tools only prevents them from learning. The short-term consequence is that they pay for a benefit they never receive. The long-term consequence is that they miss the opportunity to become better, more effective thinkers, writers, researchers, and creators.
  • Discuss the social, ethical, and practical issues surrounding AI – The processes that support the development and functionality of AI-based tools raise issues related to privacy, disinformation, environmental impact, bias, exploitation, and academic integrity, among other things. In addition, although AI-generated output appears authoritative and factual, it is frequently riddled with inaccuracy. Discussing the ethical and social concerns related to AI with students can help them see the social context of AI and can position them to make thoughtful decisions about their own use of AI-based tools.
  • Assess process as much as (or more than) product – Lowering the stakes of individual assignments reduces students’ motivation for cheating and encourages them to build their own skills and competencies. Low- or no-stakes formative assessments reinforce the notion that learning is a process and demonstrates to students that what’s valuable is the learning, not the grade.
  • Design assignments that ask students to connect course content, class discussion, and lived experience. It’s harder for AI-based tools to effectively connect the dots between these sources of knowledge.
  • Consider teaching through AI-based tools. Think about how using AI-based tools might facilitate students’ learning and prepare them to thoughtfully engage these tools in their personal and professional lives. How can students use AI-generated output to think critically and analytically? How can these tools help them ask questions about digital literacy and information accuracy? Further down this page we’ve provided some examples of how to integrate AI into assignments.

Teaching with AI

A thoughtful approach to using AI can help instructors boost student engagement with concepts and can assist in the development of course materials and assessments.

Using AI to enrich your teaching

The list below contains just a few of the ways you might use AI to enhance your teaching. Note how often the word “draft” appears in this list. It’s important to remember that AI is merely an assistive technology. Because AI cannot distinguish fact from fiction, you should always refine AI-generated output.

Using AI to enhance learning and engagement

Below are some examples of how instructors might use AI to facilitate learning. Many of these examples familiarize students with AI-based tools, but also prompt critical examination of their value, accuracy, strengths, and shortcomings.

  • Think-pair-AI-share. Students think (as individuals) about a question/concept, then pair up with a peer to discuss. The pair then plugs the question/concept into an AI tool (e.g., ChatGPT, GPT4, Bing Chat) and discusses or analyzes the output.(1)
  • Evaluating AI output. Co-develop a rubric with students that describes the components of an effective essay, lab report, précis, technical manual, blog post, etc. Students prompt an AI tool to generate three versions of the assignment on a given topic and then use the rubric to evaluate the quality of the AI-generated versions.(2)
  • Improving upon/adapting AI-generated output. Students use an AI tool to draft text or code in response to a prompt. Students must then improve upon the AI-generated output. When students turn in their assignment, they must include both the AI-generated text and their improved version.(3)
  • Explaining the steps in an AI-generated solution. Students use AI to solve a math problem. Working from the AI-generated solution, they then work in groups to explain or analyze the steps that the AI tool used to arrive at the solution.(4)
  • Visualizing concepts with AI. Students select a concept covered in lecture or course readings. Students then prompt an Al image generator to create an image that represents the connection between the concept and daily life. They must then explain how the Al-generated image conveys the concept and its relationship to daily life. Students might also analyze the strengths and shortcomings of AI image generators.(5)
  • Exploring AI in your field. Students explore current applications of AI in the discipline of the course or in their major. Within the context of the discipline (or their major), students examine both AI’s advantages and limitations.(6)

What to do if you suspect academic misconduct

Students are expected to practice high standards of academic and professional honesty and integrity. The University communicates with students about the importance of knowing and understanding the expectations of both the University and specific instructors regarding academic standards. If you have prohibited the use of AI-based tools and suspect that a student has engaged in academic misconduct, you can make a report to your campus Student Conduct office.

Information that is communicated to students regarding academic standards and the Student Conduct Code is available on the Office of Community Standards and Student Conduct Academic misconduct page.

  1. Adapted from Finley-Croswhite, 2023 and Wong, 2023.
  2. Adapted from Michael McCreary, Goucher College.
  3. Adapted from assignments created by Andrea Otañez, UW Communications; Carly Gray, UW Psychology; Richard Ross, University of Virginia; and materials in Laquintano, et al, 2023.
  4. Adapted from Finley-Croswhite, 2023.
  5. Adapted from an assignment created by Christine Savolainen, UW Biology.
  6. Adapted from UW Bothell, Office of Student Academic Success.