The learning outcomes
Paying close attention to the learning context empowers a student to enter the learning and to respond in appropriate ways. This is not just by using technical language correctly, but also by giving responses that are appropriate to the social environment of the classroom and school.
A student who tries to use AI in an environment where it is explicitly banned or even implicitly discouraged, may feel that they are not entering the learning environment of the classroom. They may feel like an ‘outsider’.
Recent data suggests that about 1 in 5 teens in the USA who have heard of ChatGPT have used it for schoolwork. If this is widely applicable, then schools do need to find positive ways of supporting AI use by students, even if it does not directly feature in classroom teaching.
Learning outcomes can be negotiated with students, and students could be encouraged to declare their use of AI by filling in a simple evaluation of what went well and what could be done better.
Sharing the learning outcomes for a particular piece of work with AI would allow the student to get immediate direct feedback on a draft piece of work, which would then be completed and handed in for teacher marking.
An appendix of help given by AI in the production of the work and its feedback would help to legitimise the private use of AI by students and bring it into approved classroom practice.
In traditional teacher-centred classrooms, AI can be a guest, but this is at the discretion of the teacher as to whether it is welcome in a particular lesson. These are part of the visible controls of the learning outcomes.
So many of the skills that AI is good at, such as translation, summarising, brainstorming, synthesis, writing accurate prose, composing stories, interpreting scientific data, are skills that the teacher wants their students to acquire on their own. Therefore, there may well be occasions when a lesson should not include elements of AI.
A counterargument is that, since these tools now exist, why not allow students to develop these skills alongside their use of AI. There are parallels here with the adoption of calculators on the development of mental arithmetic skills.
In England, this tension has been partially resolved by designating certain parts of the curriculum for the development of mental arithmetic.
Whatever the decisions made during lesson planning, it would be appropriate if these expectations were visible at the outset of the lesson, to avoid the embarrassment of students feeling uncomfortable.
It would be easier if these expectations were visible at the outset of the lesson, to avoid the embarrassment of students feeling uncomfortable.
In inquiry-based lessons the teacher acts as a “facilitator. AI can act as a co-facilitator, with the students evaluating the usefulness of any suggestions made.
Students could be encouraged to draft and test prompts to get appropriate responses from AI. In a sense this is a digital equivalent of the “think-pair-share” technique, widely used in schools.
From these discussions, the shape of the task can emerge. However, it is important that the conversation continue until the learning outcomes are clearly established for all students.
Sometimes a student-centred activity can be surrounded by activities with more visible (teacher-centred) controls. Students using AI to brainstorm important ideas for a project can work autonomously.
This could be more productive if the activity was preceded by a clear discussion of the expected context for the project and its learning outcomes.
Regular opportunities for the student to discuss their thinking with the teacher can also help to keep the student on track. This is an example of a versatile use of visible and invisible controls.
|Q. Imagine you are planning a lesson in which students will use AI to research a topic. You have prepared AI by giving the appropriate learning context and learning outcomes.
How will you prepare your students to use AI in the task? What kind of instructions would you give them and how would you monitor the output given to the students?
Updated 16/01/24 to include end of article question.