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Assessment in the World of AI

Edtech expert Jon Neale shared, “ChatGPT is the worst version of this technology we will ever have.”

With that in mind, when we think about assessment and the impact AI is having, we should be thinking big-picture so that we’re ready for ChatGPT version 5 and beyond, which means thinking beyond AI-checkers (which, already, aren’t accurate).

On the one hand, we’ve dealt with this same kind of things before…calculators, computers, Google, paid services, and the same approaches we’ve been using to discourage cheating in the past are still relevant today. On the other hand, this is an exciting opportunity to really stop and reflect and delve into what and why we’re assessing.

When you’re considering assignments/assessments, consider the following questions:

Why are you worried that students will use AI?

The obvious answer here is that if students are using AI when they are not supposed to be using it, they will not be engaging with the material at a deep level and not developing their knowledge and skills. Are there any other answers that come to mind?

What are the actual goals of the assignment?

For any given assignment/assessment, students have to do lots of things, some of which are tied to the goals of the assignment and some aren’t. Are you clear for any given assignment what are the actual goals and what other pieces may just be secondary?

What are the different ways you could assess what you want to assess?

The best assessments have a direct connection between what students are being asked to do and what learning you are trying to measure. And, there is usually more than one way to measure that learning. Get a little creative and consider all of the different ways that you could assess the same material/knowledge/skills/dispositions?

And then think about the following strategies:

Teach students how to use AI as a tool and resource

Recognizing that AI is here and will only become more prevalent and powerful, our students will be navigating a world where AI is commonplace, and it’s up to us, as educators, to shape how they use it. Build in instruction about how to use it as a tool and resource, including understanding of ethics, media literacy, critical thinking. And consider building in AI as a tool into those assignments and assessments in a controlled way.

Consider different roles for homework

Truly think about why you are assigning work and how it’s built into your class and goals for student learning and consider reconfiguring. Rather than a worksheet where students could cheat (whether it’s AI or another student), try a “think sheet” where students are asked to share their thinking and step-by-step approach to a problem. Rather than disconnected assignments, make the homework more of background research or preliminary work that is essential for the next class and/or something that will be incorporated into the next class. Rather than assigning anything, truly consider what the role is in the greater scope of the class and if this is the most effective way to get there.

Be transparent with students about what they are being asked to do and why

Sometimes students cheat because they see no purpose in the assignment, and if there is no real purpose, then it doesn’t matter whether or not they’d do it. And if it doesn’t matter, and it’s not going to be fun for them, they’ll be more inclined to find a different solution. If, however, they feel respected and feel like a given assignment is legitimately for their own good rather than some form of torture or busy work, they may be more inclined to put in the work. Try being open with students about why you’re asking them to do something and what’s in it for them.

Empower students to develop their own skills and knowledge

Sometimes students cheat because they don’t think they can do it on their own. They may not have a good understanding of the assignment. They may not feel confident in their own learning. They may not know how to ask for help. When students feel really good and confident about their learning, they are more likely to want to show that and do the work on their own. Consider how you get students excited to share their learning with you or the world rather than looking for a way out.

Create assessments where students can’t cheat

Sometimes students cheat just because they can, so consider the types of assessments that can’t involve cheating such as authentic assessments or performance assessments. ChatGPT can do lots of things, but it can’t take learning from class and apply it in real-time in the real world. Also, keep in mind that while generative AI is being trained on millions of pieces of data, it’s not being trained on your specific class with your specific material to do exactly what you’re asking, so think about making the assignment unique and specialized enough that ChatGPT just won’t help; the only thing that will help is what the student learned in your class. Try assessing students in a way ChatGPT can’t just do for them.

As we reconsider assessment (and assignments in general) in a world of AI, one final question for you to consider –

Is it really beneficial and worthwhile to require and force students to do what technology can now do in a second?

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