How Will AI Affect Student Learning and Assessment?

How Will AI Affect Student Learning and AssessmentBy Tab Olsen

AI has developed at a rapid pace, and kids are already using AI tools like ChatGPT to do their homework. I mean, who wouldn’t want to give it a try? I know I did!

I asked it, “Can you write a sonnet?” It said, “Sure! What would you like the sonnet to be about?” I replied, “A pirate and his love.” It said, “Here’s a sonnet about a pirate and his love.” It generated the following sonnet in mere seconds!

“Upon the salty sea he sailed with pride,

A pirate bold with treasure in his hold,

His heart was captured by a fair young bride,

Whose beauty shone like diamonds and like gold.

He vowed to her that he would always be,

A faithful lover and a loyal mate,

And though the winds of fortune blew at sea,

His love for her would never dissipate.

Through storms and battles they remained as one,

Their love a beacon shining through the night,

And when their days of sailing were all done,

They’d find a place to rest and hold each other tight.

So here’s to love that’s true and evergreen,

A pirate’s heart forever lost at sea.”

If AI can write a nice sonnet that quickly, imagine what else it can do!

Which leads to the temptation of getting your homework done in minutes instead of hours. It’s understandable, then, that the rapid rise of AI is concerning to teachers.

Nearly half of educators who responded to a recent EdWeek Research Center survey said that AI would have a negative or very negative impact on teaching and learning in the next five years.

Some of the educators who responded to the survey said they’re worried that AI-powered technologies might hinder students’ ability to think critically and that these tools make it easier for students to complete assignments without really learning anything. In fact, many school districts are blocking ChatGPT on campus networks and school-issued devices.

And for good reason! I would hate for everyone to become dependent on AI and stop developing their brains like the lazy, uneducated Eloi in H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine.

Assessment has always been at the top of every teacher’s objectives. Now, because of the capabilities of artificial intelligence, teachers will need to rethink how they evaluate student learning. “The classroom really hasn’t changed that much,” said Dr. Patricia Scanlon, “neither has assessment in a very long time. It’s time.”

Assessments are important, because educators need to know whether a student is progressing or if they need a little bit of intervention. But assessments don’t have to look like kids sitting in front of a computer or at their desk with pen and paper, Scanlon said.

Schools need to assess “in a more dynamic way, as opposed to static summative assessments or submission of essays,” explained Scanlon. “We’re going to have to really get imaginative about how we assess.”

I think imagination is the key, since true creativity requires a higher level of knowledge than most tests and assignments which are only asking for the most obvious answers.

For higher grade levels, assessments could look more like a Ph.D. defense, where students have to document, demonstrate, and defend what they learned.

In the lower grades, Scanlon said that schools could blend assessments into the background. For example, early elementary teachers can assess students’ language learning and reading skills by listening to students interact with each other.

“My vision for the future for assessment would be: Kids don’t know they’re being assessed but they’re practicing, they’re interacting, they’re being playful,” Scanlon said. “It’s engaging, it’s fun, it’s dynamic, but we’re still progressing along.”

And when it comes to using generative AI to create student work, you can use it to inspire an idea the same way you might already use traditional prompts such as music, art, or written resources. Just don’t let it do all your work for you.

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