Teaching in a ChatGPT World

Last week, I posted some responses that ChatGPT had provided about effective teaching. Before discussing the responses, it’s worthwhile to discuss how ChatGPT works. In last week’s post, I explained that ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence-based chat bot, but I didn’t get into how it actually works. So, I asked ChatGPT to explain itself. Here’s what they said:

ChatGPT is a variant of the GPT (Generative Pre-training Transformer) language model developed by OpenAI. It is designed to generate human-like text in real-time in a conversational context, by predicting the next word or phrase based on the input provided. The GPT model is trained on a large dataset of text and uses a transformer architecture to generate text. The transformer architecture is a type of neural network that is particularly well-suited to processing sequential data, such as natural language text. It uses self-attention mechanisms to allow the model to consider the context of the entire input sequence when generating output.

In the case of ChatGPT, the model is specifically trained to generate text in a conversational context, by predicting responses to input prompts. It uses the input prompts to generate context and generate appropriate responses. The model can generate responses in a variety of styles, depending on the training data it was provided and the specific configuration of the model.

To me, the important part is that ChatGPT draws on its existing database and uses predictive analytics to generate the next word or phrase to a response. Looking at the responses in my post last week, it is clear that the database from which ChatGPT draws its responses saw effective teaching as more closely connected “commitment to student success and learning” and “passion for teaching” than content knowledge. That’s probably not that surprising to a lot of people. But I want to draw on that commitment and passion to outline some ways that we as teachers can better navigate this ChatGPT world. Here are some of my initial thoughts:

1. Don’t ban or block ChatGPT. I know that some folks’ natural reactions to innovations like ChatGPT is to try to make it go away. Schools technically have the ability to block the site and could develop policy to ban students from using it. If we look at the history of technological innovations in schools (calculators, spelling and grammar checkers, smartphones, etc.), we’ll see shortsighted solutions that were shown to be unrealistic in the long term. I see ChatGPT in the same way. Sure, it’s been a pretty eventful few weeks (ChatGPT was released in late November!) but schools will figure out better ways to use ChatGPT than banning or blocking it.

2. We can teach with ChatGPT. To better prepare students in this ChatGPT world, we need to teach them (and teachers) to critically examine the responses it gives. Over the last few weeks, we’ve learned that ChatGPT will provide wrong answers, calculate problems incorrectly, make wrong connections, and offer ethically challenging advice. Now, the responses may get better with time (after all, it is learning) but ChatGPT’s responses offer opportunities that we should embrace rather than avoid. We need to bring the tool and its responses into our classrooms and discuss and analyze them.

3. We need to revise our plagiarism policies. Schools are already dealing with a number of student submissions of ChatGPT created assignments. I urge institutions to revisit their policies and revise them to reflect ChatGPT generated work. For example, my institution’s plagiarism policy states:

“Plagiarism is presenting as one’s own work:
A paper or work wholly or partially done by someone else;
A passage copied from another source without giving credit to the author;
A creative idea copied without giving credit to the creator.”

Is ChatGPT a “someone”? Can artificial intelligence technically be considered “an author”? Smarter legal minds will have to weigh in on this, but we will probably need to clarify some of our policy language. Quickly. (A quick side note, I ran a ChatGPT generated through a Plagiarism checker, and it found no issues. But don’t worry. There is a ChatGPT checker available at: https://huggingface.co/openai-detector/ and it flagged all five of the responses I included in last week’s email with a 95% or greater probability as being fake.)

4. We can use ChatGPT to plan. Over the last few weeks, I’ve heard from colleagues who have used ChatGPT to field test their essay questions to see how ChatGPT would craft responses. Another colleague used ChatGPT to create a lesson plan for an upcoming class. In preparation for my spring classes, I asked ChatGPT to offer some recent peer-reviewed publications that I could include in my syllabus to update some of the readings. It offered a bunch.

5. We may have to assess differently. Many teachers use papers as the main form of assessment in their classes. ChatGPT may cause some folks to reconsider those practices. Some of my colleagues are considering in-class writing assignments instead of papers submitted out of class. Others have discussed bringing back oral exams. In the short term, it’s clear that ChatGPT will have us rethinking all forms of student-created products from discussion forum posts to essays to literature reviews.

While we’re navigating the challenges that ChatGPT poses for our roles as teachers, it’s important that we also consider the opportunities the tool can offer. Sure, it will change some of how we how we do things, but as Seth Godin wrote in a recent blog post about ChatGPT, “Technology begins by making old work easier, but then it requires that new work be better.” In the wake of the introduction of ChatGPT, I trust that the educational community will find ways to make our teaching and student learning better.


One thought on “Teaching in a ChatGPT World

  1. Pingback: ChatGPT: A Primer | The 8 Blog

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