With a little creativity, educators can easily assess student learning and promote engagement and critical thinking skills in the classroom.

5 ways to teach and assess learning in the age of AI


With a little creativity, educators can easily promote engagement and support the development of critical thinking skills in the classroom

Key points:

There is a lot of excitement surrounding ChatGPT, the cutting-edge chatbot powered by OpenAI. Some experts believe this new technology can have a positive impact on teaching and learning, while others fret it may weaken the teaching of critical thinking and increase bias by spreading misinformation about different groups and cultures.

While both can be true, it is up to educators to create classroom conditions for students to use ChatGPT and other AI tools in a responsible way. Educators can draw on their long practice of nurturing student agency and authentic engagement, as they have always done. This approach goes even further when combined with teaching global competencies such as appreciation for diversity, perspective-taking, and global engagement, empowering students to take ownership over their learning. Educators can even tap student enthusiasm for new technology by assigning–and assessing student learning using–multimedia projects.

Does this all sound far-fetched? The Global Scholars virtual exchange program has reached more than 105,000 students, cumulatively. Over the past decade, we’ve seen students engage in multiple ways productively (with one another, with the subject matter, with their peers worldwide). Working with more than 500 teachers annually, and with Project Zero from the Harvard Graduate School of Education to analyze our e-classroom discussion boards, we have qualitative data on what works to keep students engaged in learning.

Underlying the 5 steps below are 2 “secrets,” which will come as no surprise to today’s educators.

Secret 1: Multimedia assignments. Multimedia projects such as podcasts, interviews, news articles, infographics, 3D spaces, and videos tap student enthusiasm for new technology, but for creative purposes. These types of assignments are also harder to farm out to AI! Additionally, multimedia projects offer educators alternative ways to see evidence of student thinking. A student’s role in building a collaborative website, video, or even community garden may not be as easy to evaluate as a 5-paragraph essay—which ChatGPT could handle more easily—but it offers educators a window into key elements of critical thinking skills such as creativity, problem solving, decision-making, strategic planning, and verbal communication as they develop.

Secret 2: Student expertise. Students ages 10-13 are rarely seen as experts or asked to share their perspectives and lived experiences. Asking for students’ personal experience and insights about their own communities is both inspiring and, once again, hard to fake. Educators can take it up a notch by emphasizing the diversity of local cultures in any community or classroom and coaching students to listen for and to value different perspectives.

To promote engagement and support the development of critical thinking skills in your classroom, here are five ways to teach and assess student learning in the age of AI that we’ve learned from the Global Scholars international virtual exchange program:

1. Action! Motivate students to act by incorporating action planning into assignments. This involves breaking down tasks into smaller steps. Encourage students to create goals and list the action steps themselves. Bonus: Have them measure and note the impact of each action. Students can measure impact by gathering data from surveys or documenting testimonials.

2. Community. Encourage students to look beyond the classroom for deeper learning. For any topic, they can conduct interviews with local experts.

3. Own it. To promote student agency in group activities, offer students the opportunity to select their preferred roles and responsibilities. By giving students the freedom to choose, they can feel more invested in the project and take ownership of their contributions. This approach also fosters a sense of collaboration since each group member contributes to a shared goal.

4. Invite new perspectives. To limit bias and prejudice, set up authentic, structured encounters with peers of different backgrounds. This empowers students to speak about their own lived experience and to listen with care to that of others. A virtual exchange program such as Global Scholars, Open Canopy, or a resource like iEarn makes these authentic encounters easier to arrange. If this is not available, take advantage of the diverse experiences in your own classroom to encourage reflection and respectful exchange.

5. We can work it out. Develop assignments that promote inclusive problem-solving and multiperspectivity. Have students design a community survey to gather insights from family and community members on any topic. Bonus: Have them show survey responses in pie charts or bar graphs or edit a video of an interview.

An authentic assignment or heartfelt exchange teaches students not only to avoid reliance on received responses such as those from ChatGPT; it also launches them on a lifelong learning adventure.

References

Understanding AI Writing Tools and Their Uses for Teaching and Learning at UC Berkeley | Center for Teaching & Learning. (n.d.).

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology, Artificial Intelligence and Future of Teaching and Learning: Insights and Recommendations, Washington, DC, 2023. 

Young, J. R. (2023, July 27). Instructors rush to do “assignment makeovers” to respond to CHATGPT – Edsurge News. EdSurge.

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